The First Sunday in Advent

 

November 29, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 19:28-40

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us this day through Thy Spirit and Word

And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, The Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

 

  1. Our Gospel lesson is taken from Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt to cheering crowds waving palm branches and declaring Him their Messiah and King. The palms were symbols of victory and triumph for the one who had come to establish the Messianic Kingdom. As He rode into Jerusalem that day the people began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. Why did Jesus enter the city of Jerusalem that day? (1) He did this to fulfill the words of the Prophet Zechariah, quoted in Matthew: All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, gentle and riding on a donkey, and a colt the foal of a donkey (Mt. 21:4-5). Jesus came to earth to die a perfect death in our stead and to fulfill all that Moses and the Prophets had written of Him. After His resurrection Jesus said to His disciples: These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me (Lu. 24:44). Christ came to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him (2) Jesus came to Jerusalem that day to offer Himself to Israel as their Messiah and King one last time. God does not desire the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23).

 

  1. We see a glimpse of the heart of God toward sinners as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. His covenant people had rejected Him as Messiah and in a few days the Jewish leaders and the Romans would have Him put Him to death. Jesus also knew that in a few years God was going to pour out His judgment upon the Jews. Jesus said: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt. 23:37). Christ laid down His life for the sins of the world, (Jn. 2:2), The Scriptures could not be clearer. He will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4) and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9b). Why are people not saved? Why do they fail to receive what God offers them? Why do men die in their sins? Because they stubbornly and persistently refuse to repent of their sins and believe on Jesus Christ. (3) Jesus came to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to present Himself as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). Jesus went to the cross voluntarily. He laid down His life of His own free will, no one took His life from Him. 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 (Jn. 10:17-18). God saves sinners! We do not save ourselves.

I.

  1. God continues to reveal Himself to man. Mankind by nature is a slave to sin. He is born with no desire for God; He is a stranger to God alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Eph. 4;18). Paul wrote: There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (Rom. 3:10-11). Left to ourselves we would never believe the Gospel and would die in our sins. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (I Cor. 2:14). The word can in this verse implies ability. The unbeliever apart from the new birth cannot know, believe, nor understand the things of the Spirit of God. He considers the Gospel to be foolish and not worth knowing. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see (perceive, recognize) the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). Until we are born again of water and Spirit we will never enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus invites all who are weary of their sins to come to Him for rest and promises that anyone who comes to Him in faith will not be cast out (Mt. 11:28-30; Jn. 6:37). God reveals Himself to those He chooses. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn. 6:44). I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto infants.

 

  1. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Mt. 11:26-27). If you have believed on Christ it means God has opened the eyes and ears of your soul, He has forgiven your sins, reconciled you to Himself and given you the knowledge of Himself, the gift of eternal life (Jn. 17:3). People often ask: why did God choose me? Why did I believe the Gospel while my neighbor or family continue living in rebellion to God? God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame (Eph. 1:4). We had nothing to do with our salvation. It is the work of God from start to finish. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. This was the question posed by the hymn writer Isaac Watts.

 

Why was I made to hear Thy voice

And enter while there’s room,

When thousands make a wretched choice,

And rather starve than come?

 

T’was the same love that spread the feast

That sweetly drew us in;

Else we had still refused to taste

And perished in our sins

 

  1. God in his mercy reveals Himself to mankind in Creation. The revelation of God in creation is so clear that man has no excuse for unbelief. David said, the fool has said in his heart there is no God (Ps. 14:1). The more scientists explore the mysteries of the human body, our DNA, and how God made us, the clearer His revelation becomes. As we view the world around us we say with David: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands (Ps. 19:1). Creation reveals God’s eternal power and Godhead, His faithfulness and beauty in the changing seasons, His majesty and glory in the sun, moon and stars, and His love and care in seed time and harvest as He provides our daily bread. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mt. 5:44-45). Our Heavenly Father continues showing kindness and compassion toward those who hate Him, who despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God also reveals Himself to man in His providence. He protects and provides for all His creatures. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing (Ps. 145:15-16). Most of us enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal this week that many people in the world could not imagine. God reveals Himself to man in Creation and Providence.

 

  1. But God’s greatest revelation to man is in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. He is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:2). He our Savior and Redeemer is the Propitiation (payment in full), for all our sins. He came to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to enter His Holy Passion, suffering, and death. This was the reason Jesus was born. He entered the city that day with the full knowledge of everything that awaited Him there, His betrayal, His disciples deserting and denying Him, the religious leaders rejecting Him, the people turning against Him, and the soldiers beating, mocking,, and nailing Him to the cross like a common criminal. But He did all this for us. 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). Yet knowing what was before Him, we see Jesus in the upper room loving His disciples until the end, encouraging, praying for them and washing their feet as a servant to teach us to love and serve one another (Jn. 13:3-5). We hear Him saying to His disciples: I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me; This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. God’s final revelation of Himself is in His Son our Savior.

II.

  1. Christ continues to come to His people with gifts of salvation. Just as Jesus went to Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to accomplish our salvation, to redeem us from sin death and hell, and on the third day to rise victorious from the grave, He continues coming to His people today through the preaching of His Word and the Holy Sacraments. Christ comes to us at birth through our parents who are the voice of God to us. They carried us to the Waters of Baptism, taught us to pray, to read the Bible, to understand the Catechism, and to obey God’s Word. Parents I urge you to take this responsibility seriously. Teach your children the Word of God and show them what it means to honor the Church, the Divine Service, the Holy Sacrament and the preaching of God’s Word. Do you want your children to love the Church? Would you like them to say with David: Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth. (Ps. 26:8). There is nothing speaks louder to your children than your example. If you want your family to hold peaching and the Word of God sacred, let them see you doing it. If you want them to make God’s Word and His worship a priority in their lives it begins with you. If you let the things of this world take the place of God’s Word they will see it and imitate your example. You have a window of opportunity to teach your children at a time in their lives when they will listen to you, don’t miss it. This is a life and death matter.

 

  1. Christ comes to us through the hearing of His Word to offer and seal the forgiveness of sins to our life. That makes the church very important. If we are saved by grace through faith, and if faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17), then how we treat God’s Word and the public means of grace is our real attitude toward Christ. To neglect the Church is to despise the Lord Jesus Christ. As the people sang the praises of the Lord Jesus the promised Messiah they sang: Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. Some of the Pharisees were offended and tried to silence the multitude urging Jesus to rebuke His disciples, but our Lord refused. He said to them: I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. We gather together with God’s people on the Lord’s Day to worship and praise the Name of the Triune God in our prayers, our hymns of praise, and the liturgy. We come here to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Heb. 13:15). We join with the saints in heaven gathered around the Throne as they sing the praises of Almighty God with the angels who cry out: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory (Is. 6:3). Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:  Sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious (Ps. 66:1-2).

 

  1. This is why we call our worship on the Lord’s Day, the Divine Service, for Christ comes to serve us by cleansing us from our sins as we gather together around the Word of God. As we worship God around the means of grace we grow in our faith. The Holy Sacrament is the response of the people of God as they understand their sins from the Word of God and come to the Table of the Lord to receive what Christ offers them, forgiveness, life and salvation. True worship isn’t about what we will do for God or how much we love and honor Him. True worship and hymns of praise speak of what God has done for us in Christ. Do you come here with a troubled conscience? Realize that Christ suffered for your sins on the cross 2,000 years ago and He comes to you to cleanse your heart from the guilt of that particular sin here and now so that you can go home justified, forgiven and right with God. We come to the Lord’s Table to receive forgiveness of our sins and to be strengthened in our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Small Cat). This morning is the beginning of another Advent Season, a time the church sets aside for repentance and expectation. In Advent we prepare for the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem, and look forward with hope to His victorious return in glory as Judge and King, and we give praise to God for Christ’s continual coming to us through the means of grace. May God grant us a new love for His Word and the people of God; Amen.

The Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

 

November 22, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 13:24-37

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

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

 

  1. As Jesus and His disciples were walking out of the Temple one of His disciples pointed out the beautiful stonework of the Temple, but Jesus said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. There was something more important on our Lord’s mind that day, namely the judgment of God that was going to be poured out upon the Jewish nation, His return in glory and the Day of Judgment. Mark 13 is called our Lord’s Eschatological Discourse, referring to the end times or the Day of the Lord. There is a day coming in the future when Christ will return to the earth once again. On that day, time will cease, the Day of Grace will end, redemptive righteousness will be complete, and every person who ever lived from the beginning of time will stand before God in judgment. Christ the King will separate His Sheep from the Goats, His people from the unbelieving world, and God will pour out His wrath upon all who rejected His Son and welcome His elect children into Heaven for eternity. In the words of the Athanasian Creed: He ascended into heaven; He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

 

  1. Paul describes the Day of the Lord: For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (I Thess 5:2-6). Jesus is going to return unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. While the world is proclaiming peace and safety sudden destruction will come upon them. But Christians will not be taken by surprise. The children of light will be watching and waiting for their Lord’s return. When Jesus speaks about His return in glory He also describes God’s judgment upon Jerusalem. When the Roman Armies laid siege to Jerusalem and leveled the Temple in 70 AD it was a microcosm, a picture of the final judgment. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Vs. 24-27).

 

  1. The destruction of Jerusalem is a perpetual warning of God’s judgment on the last day. Jesus said to His disciples, not only are these stones coming down, the sun, moon, and stars are all coming down too. But be not afraid, Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. God’s promises are absolutely sure. He is the unchanging God of the universe, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; the Incarnate Savior who entered the world to lay down His life for you. He has baptized you into His death, burial and resurrection and because of what Christ has done He rescued you from the great tribulation and made you a member of His Church, the Body of Christ having translated you out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His Son and forgiven all of your sins. When will the end of time come? No one knows. Jesus said: But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Christ will return at the time decreed by the Father, not one second later. For this reason Jesus tells us to stay awake, be ready, and watch for His return. Watch and pray as you do the work He has given you, as a husband, a wife, a father a mother, a son or daughter, or in your vocation or business, in every area of life, stay awake and be a faithful steward. To stay awake means don’t be led astray by false doctrine! Do not be alarmed! Be on your guard against temptation and endure to the end!

I.

  1. Why should a Christian be watching for the Lord’s Return? (1) The Bible tells us to wake up and prepare for His return. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. The Apostle John wrote: And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (I Jn. 2:28). We are saved by grace through faith apart from our works, but true faith is always known by its works. Faith without works is dead (Ja. 2:20). It is easy to say we are a Christian but the real test is how we live our life in this world. That is why the Day of Judgment is always described in terms of good works. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Cor. 5:9). Many who claim to know Jesus on the last day will hear Him say: I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Mt. 7:22-23). The word iniquity means lawlessness, deliberately living in sin while claiming to be saved by grace. Such people, do not have the grace of God, but the grace they have bestowed upon themselves. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Rom. 13:11-12).

 

  1. An understanding of the return of Christ will gradually make you holy in heart and life. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure I Jn. 3:2-3). The Day of Christ’s return is at hand, stay alert and watch. (2) The world, the flesh, and the devil are seeking to destroy your soul. You have an enemy, an ancient foe, an adversary who walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). The devil has been observing human beings for thousands of years and knows all the weak places. Human nature has not changed. Therefore do not imagine you cannot stumble and fall into sin. Greater men and women than you have fallen. Jesus said that Satan is a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He will try to destroy your reputation, steal your family, and even kill your soul if he can. Also, do not underestimate the power of your old sinful nature. Solomon wrote: Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). True religion begins in the heart, mind, and affections and what we feed our hearts and minds will shape the way we think and live. King David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the man after God’s own heart; the descendant of Jesus the Son of David learned the power of sin. David had stayed behind in Jerusalem while his army went to battle and one night he saw Bathsheba from his balcony washing herself.

 

  1. He fell into adultery with Bathsheba, later had her husband killed, and tried to live as if nothing had happened, until one day Nathan the prophet came by to see him. He told David the story of a poor man who only had one sheep, a family pet and how a rich man next door, who had many sheep, when guests came to visit him, took this man’s only sheep, killed and ate it. David was livid. He said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity (II Sam. 21:5-6). Then Nathan replied: Thou art the man. God gave you everything. There is nothing He would have withheld from you, but you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight; thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife. What happened next is the sign of a true child of God. David didn’t make excuses or blame anyone else for his sins. David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. God forgave David’s sin that day and taught him a painful lesson on how far he could fall. Later he wrote: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me (Ps. 51:10-11). Jesus said to his disciples in Gethsemane: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeedis willing, but the flesh is 

II.

  1. How does a Christian stay awake spiritually? The greatest cause of spiritual sleep is neglect and laziness. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great (a) salvation (Heb. 2:3). Many professing Christians have no time for the Word of God; no time for prayer, no time to teach their children the catechism. They are too busy. They expect the church to fill the void in their lives and have fallen asleep. They are taking their souls for granted forgetting the warnings of Scripture: Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (I Cor. 10:13). They do not understand the power of sin. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12-13). Sin will deceive you. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. Sin will make you think you are right with God when you are not! Sin will harden your heart until you are unable to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to your conscience. A person in this condition is dull of hearing and unable to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:12-14). Christians are asleep because of the deception of the world. The thinking of the world will gradually seduce us and lull us to sleep. This is why many church people are unprepared for our Lord’s return.

 

  1. Many Christians have embraced the priorities and philosophies of the world, about family, children, sound doctrine, the errors of feminism, phony equality, contemporary worship and rock and roll liturgies, money, pleasure, and tolerance of sin. They love the world. They want to be accepted by a godless culture. They want to avoid persecution so they surrender the truth to keep peace with those who hate Christ, but it’s never enough. The more the church surrenders the more the world demands until finally Christ has been removed from the church. Sinful Human reason, unenlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, will lead you to hell. When the devil has persuaded us to surrender one article of faith to him, he has won; in effect he has all of them, and Christ is already lost. He can at will unsettle and take all others, for they are all intertwined and linked together like a golden chain so that if one link is broken, the entire chain is broken and can be pulled apart. There is no article which the devil cannot overthrow once he has succeeded in having reason dabble in doctrine and speculate about it. Reason knows how to turn and twist Scripture in a masterly fashion into conformity with its views. This is very agreeable, like sweet poison.” (Luther’s Works, St.L. ed., vol. 9, pg. 825). The Christian stays awake spiritually by daily repentance from sin, returning to the promises of his baptism, and receiving the forgiveness of sin; the cleansing of the Blood of Christ by grace through faith.

 

  1. To stay spiritually awake is to continue hearing the voice of the Shepherd, and walking in the Light of His Word. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (Jn. 10:27-28). To watch is to continue in the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, realizing that you have no ability to keep yourself awake. Without Christ you can do nothing. Continuing in the Christian faith is something totally lacking in your sinful flesh. You do not stay spiritually alert by your own reason or strength. The Lord gives you the ability to overcome laziness and lethargy so common to every Christian. He delivered you from the guilt and power of your sins on the cross and gave you a new spiritual life in Holy Baptism. The Lord cries out to us this morning through His Word: Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober (I Thess 5:6). His Word awakens your faith and assures you that despite your spiritual sleepiness you are truly a child of the light and a child of the day. Our Lord Jesus came into a world of darkness to live a perfect life and die a perfect death. The Light of the World entered the darkness of sin and error for you and emerged victorious the third day. So do not be afraid! The crucified and Risen Lord invites you to come to His Table this morning, for the Feast is ready for all who believe His promise. May God grant us these blessings; Amen.

The Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

 

November 8, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 12:38-44

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

And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

  1. God is the silent witness of our worship, the unseen observer of our hearts and lives, nothing is hidden from His eyes. He sees the hypocrite, who loves the honor and praise of men and the chief seats of the synagogue; his love of money, his long winded prayers, and his phony piety. Jesus said these shall receive greater damnation. In our Gospel lesson Jesus was sitting near the treasury where receptacles shaped like trumpets were set up to receive offerings from the worshipers. He watched as the people cast money into the treasury. He knew each person who gave money that day. He knew their motives and whether they gave liberally or sparingly, cheerfully or reluctantly. Christ knows our hearts and why we give money to Him. We are reminded that God takes His worship very seriously. The Word, the Presence, and the Worship of God are Holy and if we wish to stand in God’s presence we must have the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith. His death for our sins has opened the way to God so that now we may come boldly to the Throne of Grace to find mercy and grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Men trifle with the worship of God to their own peril. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him (Ps. 89:7). God will not be mocked. He knows the thoughts and intents of every heart. As Jesus sat watching the people at the Temple that day, what did He see?

I.

  1. He saw rich people giving money out of their abundance. The sight of rich people giving money to the Temple was a good thing. Mark tells us they gave a lot of money that day, they were not stingy. If God has blessed your work, you ought to give generously; wealth brings a great responsibility. The Bible never condemns anyone for being rich. There will always be rich and poor in the world and we can do nothing to change it. Some people think we should make everyone financially equal but all attempts to redistribute wealth have failed. Socialism is built upon the envy of the rich and legalized theft but the Christian understands that God gives us the power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18). God in His sovereign providence and wisdom determines whom He will bless with wealth in this life. God commands us to work diligently in our vocation and to be content with what He chooses to give us. God gave us our work to bless our family and help other people. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth (Ep. 4:28). People are rich or poor for a variety of reasons that are mostly beyond our control. Some people are poor because of bad decisions and sinful behavior. I have an old friend who has a gambling addiction. His wife told me recently how his sinful behavior has bankrupted and torn their family apart.

 

  1. My friend wants to be rich without working for it. But others are poor through no fault of their own, some have lost a job or their health has failed, or a husband died, as in the case of the widow in our text. In that day there were few opportunities for a woman to earn a living so if her husband died and there were no other family members, she would be thrown into poverty. True religion according to James is: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. It is interesting that after Jesus saw both rich and poor that day He did not condemn the rich for their wealth nor preach a sermon on Social Justice. God created our economic system which allows us to prosper in our work and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But elsewhere Jesus spoke about the dangers associated with wealth. He warned about trying to worship and serve mammon (wealth) alongside the true God. This is impossible. Jesus said: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Mt. 6:24). He also revealed how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:23-24).

 

  1. His disciples were amazed when they heard these words and asked: Who then can be saved? They had been taught their entire lives that riches were the sign of God’s blessing and now Jesus was warning of the dangers of wealth. Our Lord replied: With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. What is it that makes riches and wealth so dangerous to our souls? Men are tempted to love and trust their wealth rather than God which separates them from God. Paul said: The love of money is the root of all evil. (I Tim. 6:10). It is not just rich people who love money, I’ve met plenty of poor folks who loved money just as much as any rich man. Paul writes: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (I Tim. 6:6-8). Paul charges the rich to be ready to help those in need. This applies to all of us but especially the wealthy. Paul said to Timothy: Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to share; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (I Tim. 6:17-19). When the Gospel is alive in the heart of a person it will make him generous.

 

  1. Luther often spoke of three conversions that took place in a man who believed on Christ, conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind, and conversion of the purse (or checking account). When the Lord finally gets hold of man’s money, of his bank account, it is a good sign he also has the man’s heart. Jesus once said how we use our money is the measure of our true spiritual condition. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? (Lu. 16:10-12). Today there is something even more valuable than money in the lives of many of our people, and that is their time. I’ve met people who were more willing to give money than to give their time. We all have such busy schedules that people have more money than time. It’s easy to write a check but showing up at church can be more difficult. God calls His people to give everything they are and possess to Him. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12;1). God expects us to give in proportion to our estate. To whom much is given, much is required. What else did Jesus see that day?

 

II.

  1. He saw a poor widow throw two small coins into the treasury. This widow gave all the money she had in the world. When Jesus saw what she had done He said: This poor woman hath cast more in than they all. God does not just look at the amount given, but at the ability of the giver. She did not give grudgingly or out of necessity, but cheerfully. Paul tells us: God loves a cheerful giver. Was she expecting a windfall to come her way in the next few days? No. Did she give her money that day so others would admire her? No, only Jesus knew her real situation. She didn’t give to the Lord to be recognized, to get a pat on the back or a tax deduction, she gave out of heart of faith and love for her Savior. She was trusting in God who had promised to feed His children and to provide all their needs, even when circumstances seemed impossible. The same God who was able to provide manna for Israel in the desert can provide our needs, often in ways we never would imagine. David wrote: I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread (Ps. 37:25). The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing (Ps. 34:10). For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11). But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

 

  1. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt. 6:31-33). I think this woman knew from experience that God would provide her daily bread. She was not worried about the future. She trusted in God, not her money. How many times have you seen the Lord, provide your needs miraculously, sometimes exactly what you needed? This widow was a woman of faith. She understood that: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. She knew the forgiveness of her sins and was not resentful toward God because she had so many sorrows and difficulties. At one point in Paul’s ministry he was collecting money for the saints in Jerusalem and the churches in Macedonia responded generously. The Macedonians were poor and didn’t have much to give, but they reallywanted to give; to them it was a privilege to give. True Christian generosity can’t be measured by how much one has to give. Christian giving is estimated not in terms of quantity but of sacrifice. (II Cor. 8:1-5). The believers in Macedonia like the poor widow had received the riches of Christ by faith. 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 (8:9).

 

  1. Sometimes the poorest Christians in the world are the richest in the eyes of God. Jesus said to the church at Smyrna: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) (Rev. 2:9). God sees things differently than we do. Jesus said the church at Smyrna was rich but the church at Laodicea, who had plenty of money and thought they needed nothing, were actually wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. When we seek the Kingdom of God first He promises to reward us. When Elijah was hiding from King Ahab he went to live among the Gentiles in Zarephath at the home of a widow, a woman so poor she was down to her last meal. When Elijah asked her for something to eat she replied that all she and her son had was a handful of meal and a little oil and she was about to prepare their last meal and afterwards die of hunger. (I Kings 17:12). The prophet told her to make some bread for him first and then prepare a meal for her and her son. If she was willing to honor God with the little that she had, God would bless her. He promised: the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.

 

  1. Is God able to feed and care for His children when there is no money in the bank and you feel like you’re at the end of your rope? All of the saints who have ever lived in history would say, yes. Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. He gave all, so that we could have all, all of heaven, all of life, all of salvation, all of God’s free and undeserving grace and love. Compared to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross all of the other sacrifices we make in this life, whether gifts of time, talents, and treasures, are no longer a burden or a chore that we will do if time permits or if there is enough money left over in the budget. The Gospel makes us a new creation and gives us a new purpose in life. He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor. 5:15). Jesus was so impressed with this woman He called His disciples over to tell them how she had given more than all the others put together. The rich people had given out of their surplus but she had given out of her poverty. We pray that God would awaken men’s hearts to the Gospel and stir up a spirit of generosity in each of us. Give to the Lord generously while you can, knowing that the eyes of Christ are upon you. He sees exactly what each one of us gives and He knows exactly how much is left behind. We give to the Lord as the disciples of a crucified Savior, who gave Himself for us on the cross. Freely we have received. Let us freely give. Amen.

 

 

All Saints Day

 

November 1, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Matthew 5:1-12

Lord Jesus, grant us your Spirit that we may understand your Word and grow in grace and knowledge

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

  1. On All Saints Day the church remembers our believing loved ones who have gone on to heaven before us. The idea of a Saint can be confusing. Saint simply means a holy one, someone consecrated to God. Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. (Ryle). Holiness will avoid every known sin and strive to be conformed to the image of Christ. Every believer is a saint. (I Cor. 1:1-2). The words sanctified and holy come from the same Greek root as the word Saint. Christians are saints by their connection with Jesus Christ and are gradually made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not our doing. God makes us holy; He washes us clean at the Baptismal Font and makes us one of His saints. You are a saint even when you don’t feel like it or see it. The Christian is both sinner and saint at the same time. The Holy Spirit washes away our sins in holy Baptism, and makes us holy through the power of God’s Word as Jesus prayed for His people in the upper room: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (Jn. 17:17). Jesus laid down His life to sanctify and cleanse His Church by the washing of water by the Word. (Eph. 5:25-26). In the Beatitudes our Lord gives us a picture of the holiness God is working within us.

I.

  1. The description of holiness. In the Beatitudes Jesus describes the heart and life of a saint who lives by faith in Jesus Christ, as God intended a Christian to be and live. These verses do not tell us how to become a Christian, they describe the fruits of the new birth that the Holy Spirit is creating in our lives. What is the secret to a blessed and happy life? Happiness is a life of holiness by faith in Jesus Christ. What does a saint look like? (1) Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Being poor in spirit is realizing we have nothing to offer God. A saint is not someone who no longer sins, he is a person who has finally understood his sins and realizes he cannot save himself. The sinner brings nothing to God except his sins, no goodness, no merit, no righteousness, all of us are totally dependent on Jesus Christ for spiritual life, just as a branch receives life when it is connected to the vine. Every saint who ever lived had this same understanding. They all had a deep sense of their own personal sin and their need of Christ. A true saint confesses with the Apostle Paul: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (I Tim. 1:15). True holiness begins with a realization of my own sin and need of forgiveness. There is no sinless perfection taught in the Word of God. If I am going to be saved I cannot save myself. I cannot improve my spiritual condition by anything I do. Salvation must come from outside of myself, from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

  1. (2) Blessed (happy) are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted. The world does not understand these words. How can you connect happiness with mourning? The world says to forget your troubles, keep on the sunny side of life, don’t worry, and be happy. Jesus is not talking about those who mourn in a natural sense, He is describing a spiritual mourning. The Christian mourns because of his own sin. He mourns over the consequences of sin in the lives of others. He mourns the rejection of the Gospel by the people Jesus died to save. Yet at the same time he is comforted by the forgiveness of his sins and the promise of eternal life. (3) Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth. The Christian is different than the world. He is a new man, a new creation, a citizen of a different kingdom. No one can live the Christian life in his own strength. When we realize our weakness, inability, and need of salvation it will make us meek and humble toward other people. Meekness is our attitude toward self that expresses itself in our attitude and conduct toward others. Christ calls His children to meekness, humility, as the secret to true happiness, joy and blessedness. (4) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Our souls long for righteousness for we have no righteousness of our own. Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the desire to be free from sin and self in all of its manifestations.

 

  1. Only Christ can feed our souls. He is our righteousness who feeds us with His own body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. The righteousness of Christ that is ours in the Gospel is the only food that satisfies the empty soul and transforms sinners into saints. (5) Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Holiness is being forgiven by Christ and living a life of forgiveness and mercy toward others. God sent His only begotten Son into the world because of His great mercy. He saw our wretched condition and the suffering our sins had caused and His mercy moved Him to do something about it. Jesus says: Do you want to be happy? Learn to be merciful. (6) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. True religion is heart religion. The Gospel deals with the heart of man. The source of the world’s problem is the hearts of men. Until the heart is changed nothing will be solved. David prayed: Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me. Purity of heart is walking with Christ by faith and seeking to live according to God’s Word. It is desiring to know, love, and serve God with all our heart with the promise that we will one day see God face to face. The words of Jesus echo the words of Hebrews: Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Our sins are forgiven and our hearts purified by the blood of the Lamb and one day we will sing God’s praises before His Throne.

 

  1. (7) Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. To be a peacemaker requires a new heart. The church brings peace into the world by the message of peace and reconciliation in Christ. The peacemaker sacrifices to establish peace even if it means suffering unjustly. This is what Jesus did for us. (8) Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. All who follow Christ will suffer persecution in this life. The world hates Jesus Christ and always will. The unbeliever hates the Christian because he believes and confesses the Word of God that exposes sin and error. The devil hates Biblical morality, traditional marriage, motherhood, families and children. Sinful man despises God’s creation and design of the world and imagines he can remake the world in his own image. The cultural Marxists and liberals in this country are not going to stop pushing their Godless agenda. They are just getting started. We are already seeing apostate churches surrendering the truth to avoid persecution. Jesus said when you are persecuted for righteousness sake: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. The Beatitudes are God’s description of His saints who have been baptized into Christ. And one day we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. On that day the full glory of our sainthood will be revealed.

II.

  1. The importance of Holiness. When we speak of holiness it is important to understand that being holy and obedient to God’s Word cannot save us. Holiness cannot atone for our sins or make satisfaction for our transgressions. We are saved by grace through faith apart from our works. Anyone who imagines he can work his way to God is under a curse. The greatest saints in history saw themselves as unprofitable servants and understood that their best works were no better than filthy rags in the light of God’s Law. Christ gives us a perfect robe of righteousness by faith and this is our only hope. The Name of Christ our only confidence. Why is holiness important in our lives? (1) Holiness is important because God commands us to be holy. Someone may hear the Beatitudes and say: But Pastor, I’m no saint! I’m not an extraordinary Christian! I’m just an ordinary person. How could God expect me to be holy? The Bible could not be clearer on what God requires of us. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (I Pet. 1:15-16). The doctrine of holiness is where Law and Gospel agree. Christ came into the world to atone for our sins and to make us holy. And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor. 5:15). Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.

 

  1. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27). Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). Christ was born to save us from the guilt of sin and to deliver us from the dominion of sin. If we do not understand this we have much to learn. All who are justified by faith in Christ are also being sanctified. (2) Holiness is important because it is the only real evidence that our faith in Christ is genuine. Good works cannot put away our sins yet they are pleasing and acceptable to God for they give evidence that our faith in Christ is true and living. If the faith we profess does not influence our character and change the way we live, it is dead. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (Ja. 2:17). True faith will always show itself by its fruits; it will sanctify, it will work by love, it will overcome the world, it will purify the heart. (Ryle). We must be holy if we would see the Lord. We must be saints on earth if we wish to be saints in heaven. This is us why Jesus said: Ye must be born again.

 

  1. We are in need of a complete change, a new heart, and a new nature if we are going to be saved. Old things must pass away, all things must become new. Only the Gospel has the power to transform a sinner into the image of Christ. True faith works by love. It constrains a Christian to live unto the Lord out a deep sense of gratitude for our redemption. The love of Christ makes a Christian feel that he can never do too much for the Savior who died for him. We find the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word. As we gaze upon Christ in His Word and Sacraments we are gradually transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory (II Cor. 3:18). Do you desire to be holy? Then go to Christ. Do not wait. Do not imagine that you have the power to change your own life. Flee to Christ and say to Him in the words of the hymn writer:

 

Nothing in my hand I bring

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace.

 

Holiness is God’s special gift to His believing people received by faith through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who works saving grace within our hearts and lives. Jesus said: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Mt. 11:29-29). Use the means of grace, the reading of God’s Word, regular attendance at public worship, receiving the Lord’s Supper, these are the appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit gives us fresh supplies of grace and strengthens the work which He has begun in us. God works through means and He will never bless the soul of a person who thinks he is so spiritual and high minded that he get on without them. Does a saint experience an inward spiritual conflict? Is there a struggle between the old nature and the new, the flesh and the Spirit? Yes. And do not imagine that your struggle with sin is proof that you are not sanctified. It proves that you are not dead, but alive in Jesus Christ. The child of God, the true saint not only has peace of conscience but a war within. This has been proven by the lives and journals of all the saints throughout history. We worship God this morning with the saints in heaven, with the Church Triumphant. One day we will see our Lord face to face clothed in White Robes of Righteousness. Until that day let us learn to pray: Lord Jesus, make me holy! Teach me to do Thy will. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Feast of the Reformation

 

October 25, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan Pastor

Romans 1:16-17

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us hearts to hear understand and believe your life giving Word

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

 

  1. In the spring of 1521 Martin Luther stood before Charles V, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, at the Diet of Worms, on charges of heresy. Historians have often described his trial as the birth of the modern world. Luther’s long journey to Worms began a few years earlier while he was studying law at the University of Erfurt. He was returning to school during a thunderstorm in the summer of 1505 when a lightning bolt struck the ground near him. He was terrified and cried out: Help, St. Anne! I’ll become a monk. His life spared, Luther fulfilled his vow, gave away all his possessions and entered the monastery, to the disappointment of his father. Young brother Martin dedicated himself to monastic life with long hours of prayer, fasting for days at a time, and confessing his sins for hours to Johann Staupitz, his confessor. But all of Luther’s works could not bring peace to his soul. Staupitz tried to explain God’s grace to Luther, to simply surrender to the love of God, learn to love God in Christ and stop making his Christian faith so difficult. But Luther was tormented by fears and doubts about his sins. Later he would write: I was myself more than once driven to the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated Him. Staupitz realized that Luther needed something to do to keep his mind busy, so he appointed him professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. This marked the beginning of Luther’s understanding of the Scriptures.

 

  1. For the first time Luther was forced to study the Bible for himself. His first theological breakthrough came in 1513 while studying the book of Romans. He began to realize that the righteousness of God mentioned in Romans 1:17 did not refer to active righteousness, the good works a Christian does, but a passive righteousness, received from God as a gift by faith. The Church had lost the doctrine of justification by faith. He later wrote of his experience: At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open. Historians say the Reformation officially started on All Saints Eve in 1517 over the doctrine of relics and indulgences. John Tetzel was traveling around Germany at the time selling indulgences for the Pope and Luther knew they were false. If Christ has paid for our sins the Pope had no right to take money from God’s people for forgiveness. You cannot buy God’s mercy. Salvation was found in Christ alone. According to Tetzel buying an indulgence would forgive a lifetime of sins and allow a person to escape Purgatory and go straight to heaven at death. Luther’s faith was established upon Scripture alone. When he began questioning the authority of the Pope with the Bible, the Reformation had begun.

 

  1. Tetzel often would say: When the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs. Luther knew indulgences did nothing to save souls and only lined the pockets of the clergy. But Pope Leo X was rebuilding St. Peter’s Basilica and needed money, so news of Luther’s sermons against indulgences quickly travelled to Rome. On October 31st 1517 Luther preached a sermon against indulgences and posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church of All Saints. He wanted a theological debate on the subject. The 95 Theses written in Latin condemned the greed and worldliness of the church and within a few weeks the 95 Theses had been translated into German and spread throughout Germany, and in a few months, all of Europe had read them. The controversy surrounding Luther’s views on the Scriptures continued until he was finally summoned to appear at the Imperial Diet of Worms to give an answer for his doctrine. When he appeared before the assembly Johann Eck speaking for the Emperor, presented Luther with a table filled with his writings and asked: Were these his books and was he willing to recant what he had written? Luther asked for time to think about his answer and was granted one day. He prayed that evening and consulted with friends and returned to the Diet the next day to a hall filled with spectators. Eck asked him the same questions again: Are these your books and will you recant. Luther replied if they could show him from Scripture where he was in error he would recant but to do otherwise would only encourage the abuse and tyranny of the Pope.

 

  1. Eck said Luther had no right to teach doctrines contrary to what the Church had believed and taught through the ages and he must answer the question: Will you recant or will you not? Finally Luther replied: Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of Popes and Councils, for they have often contradicted one another-my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen. Luther would not back down. If they could convince him of his errors on the basis of Scripture he would recant and throw his books into the fire with his own hand, otherwise he would not recant. The Emperor declared Martin Luther an outlaw and a heretic; his books were ordered burned and his property confiscated. He was cut off from the church and people were forbidden to aid or support him in any way. Frederick the Wise arranged for Luther to be seized on his way back from the Diet by a company of masked horsemen, who carried him to Wartburg Castle at Eisenach, where he stayed for a year. While at Wartburg Luther translated the New Testament into German which placed the Word of God into the hands of the common people. Now everyone could read the Bible for themselves. What gave Luther the courage and strength to stand for the Word of God against the Pope, the Emperor and the power of the Holy Roman Empire?

I.

  1. Salvation is by grace alone. Luther had rediscovered the Gospel of grace in the Word of God. Salvation was the gift of God’s undeserved grace and mercy for Christ’s sake alone. Good works cannot save or comfort the heart of a sinner. Since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin (AC.II). Sin had separated man from God and he could do nothing to earn his forgiveness. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). The just shall live by faith. All who try to be saved by the works of the Law are under God’s curse (Gal. 3:10). God has graciously provided a way of salvation by which every sinner can be saved. 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 (Jn. 3:16). Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24). For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). The Gospel of the grace of God is the fundamental article of the Christian Church. The doctrine of justification by faith separates the Christian religion from all manmade religions. There is no forgiveness of sins in Islam! Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Allah is not the God of the Bible. We worship the Triune God. Muslims worship a false god.

 

  1. The church in Luther’s day had lost the Gospel. In the Second Article of the Creed we read:  We believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Because salvation is by grace we can know that we are saved and on our way to heaven. The grace of God gives the believer confidence and assurance when the devil accuses him of his sins. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is, there I shall be also! The grace of God is universal and includes all people of all times and places. The Gospel is not a new Law but a glorious promise of grace, peace and reconciliation in Christ. The angel said to the Shepherds on the night Jesus was born: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Lu. 2:14). God is gracious to sinners because His Son has ransomed the world from the curse of sin and satisfied the demands of the Law in our behalf. The Gospel is an offer of divine grace to all men, the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes its message.

 

  1. The Gospel does not simply tell people about the power of God unto salvation, the Gospel IS the power of God. Our salvation is not a joint venture where God has done His part and now we must do ours. When God saves the sinner He gives him new life. At the funeral of Lazarus when Jesus cried out: Lazarus come forth, the people present that day may have wondered why He was speaking to a dead man who has been in the tomb for four days? It was the word of Jesus that gave life to a dead man. The same things happens when the Gospel is preached. Sinners dead in sins are brought to life. Salvation is from the Lord who imparts new life and forgiveness to those who believe. Paul does not begin his explanation of the Gospel in the book of Romans by speaking about the love of God; he begins with the righteousness of God. The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God. Righteousness is a gift from God to all who believe on His Son. The righteousness we receive in the Gospel is not a moral quality but a legal status that places us in right relation to God and His Law.  For he hath made him to be sin for us, (He) who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Cor. 5:21). But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Rom. 3:21-22).

II.

  1. Salvation is received by faith alone! Salvation is by faith from start to finish. God offers the sinner His grace through the means of grace, the Gospel, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion and man receives what God offers him by faith in the promise of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit grants us saving faith. We are not saved by our efforts or decisions. God declares sinners to be righteous the instant they believe. God considers saving faith to be our righteousness. In Romans Paul uses Abraham as an example of justification by faith. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Rom 4:5). We thank God for the ability to reason and understand the world around us, but scientific and rational arguments alone cannot save anyone, cannot prove the Christian faith to an unbeliever. Emotions and feelings in the Christian life are important but we do not seek for a conversion experience or charismatic gifts as proof of our salvation. We point men to Jesus Christ, the object of saving faith. Only the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God can cause a sinner to believe on Christ. Faith is not a human work it is God’s gift offered and received through the Word of God. This is why the Church gathers together on Sundays. We come to the divine service to hear the proclamation of the Word of God. As men and women in our nation depart from the Gospel they also depart from the church.

 

  1. The public preaching of the Word of God is the center of the true church along with the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the visible Word. This is why pastors are so important. God uses called ministers to proclaim His Word and through that Word grants faith in Christ. When God declares us righteous it does not mean we no longer sin. We are not perfectionists. We need forgiveness continually because we are never without sin. Most Protestant churches will agree on the doctrine of justification by faith. The real question is: What are you willing to call faith? Saving faith is more than religious ceremonies, more than saying certain words or praying prayers, more than making a decision or a profession of faith. True faith comes from the new birth and transforms our lives. Good works are the evidence that our faith is genuine. The Apostle James warns of the danger of a dead faith. True faith cannot live in deliberate and impenitent sin. Anyone who thinks it is possible to live in continual sin and still go to heaven is not a Christian. Many pastors and church members today are NOT born again. True faith will sanctify us! It will work by love; it will overcome the world; it will purify the heart. Saving faith will never take sin for granted! Faith will love sound doctrine and seek to live a holy life. Christ the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world and He offers salvation to all, none need be excluded. The good news of the Gospel is for you.

 

  1. Luther rediscovered the Gospel and found the comfort and peace that only God can give. The power of the Gospel gave him the courage to stand before Popes and Kings with nothing but the truth of God’s Word. This raises a question for us: Have you believed the Gospel? Have you abandoned all of your self-righteousness and good works as the basis of your standing before God? Are you trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone to be saved? Do you cling to the Word of God even when Satan accuses you and the world ridicules you? Does your faith give you a new desire to walk with God each day? Can you see the evidences of grace in your life? If not, when you go home today, I urge you to spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer and do not go to sleep tonight until you can answer those questions with confidence. The life of Luther reminds us never to be ashamed of the Gospel but always be ready to confess your faith before your coworkers, your neighbors or your fellow students at school. We must never avoid the subject of sin and the wrath of God because it isn’t popular in our day. The Reformation was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a recovery of sound doctrine in the Church, the good news that God in Christ has rescued us from sin and the wrath to come. The people of that day wanted the whole world to hear the Gospel. May God grant us a new appreciation of the Gospel and the boldness to proclaim it; Amen.

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

October 11, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 10:17-22

Lord Jesus, help us to cling to your Word in faith as obedient children of our
Heavenly Father

Rich-Young-Ruler-Hoffman-wikimedia-commons-US-public-domain1

 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

 

  1. True religion is a vital union with Jesus Christ by grace through faith, the forgiveness of sins and a new birth. It is more than mere talk about religion. Talk is cheap. Many people say they are Christians and are familiar with religious words and phrases but words alone do not make a Christian. True religion begins with Christ. We must go to Christ as sinners and cast our souls on Him by faith to have peace with God. The very first step is nothing less than justification, coming to Christ with a penitent heart believing His promises in the Gospel and receiving His perfect righteousness. Knowledge alone cannot save you; nor a great profession of faith; nor zeal in religion; not even morality and outward respectability. The Rich Young Ruler was an outwardly moral and decent man who lived according to God’s Law and appeared to be a true believer. In our Gospel lesson this Young Ruler came running to Jesus, knelt before Him and asked a solemn question: What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? At first glance the young man seemed promising. He had an interest in spiritual things when most of the young men his age were no doubt careless and indifferent about their souls. He knelt before Jesus as a sign of reverence and addressed Jesus as Good Master; a title of respect and then asked a question about the most important subject in the world; how to obtain eternal life. But this young man did not understand God nor the condition of His own heart.

I.

  1. A Misunderstanding about God: (1) The Rich Young Ruler did not understand who Jesus was. He came to Jesus that day to gain new insights about God and eternal life but he did not expect a face to face encounter with God nor did he expect to hear Jesus calling him to repentance and absolute obedience. He saw the subject of eternal life as an academic question, something to discuss with a Good Rabbi but then our Lord’s reply surprised him. Jesus said: Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Jesus wanted him to know that He was more than a good teacher. He was the Son of God and Son of Man, the Promised Messiah come in the flesh, and the Creator of the world. He suddenly finds himself in the presence of God, the One who knew him perfectly, and the sovereign Lord of the universe. Jesus began to answer his question by pointing him to the moral Law. The Law is the expression of God’s holiness and the perfect standard to which God holds all men. (2) The young man did not understand God’s Law. He had heard the Moral Law his entire life but he was not satisfied. In his mind he had already kept the Law and now he wanted Jesus to tell him how to get to the next level. He made the mistake of thinking that God was satisfied with his law keeping and that he could earn his way to heaven by his works. You can hear it in his question. When he said: What must I do to inherit eternal life he really meant what must I do to merit eternal life.

 

 

  1. This young man was in rebellion to God and totally ignorant of salvation. He did not understand that trying be justified by keeping the Law placed him under God’s wrath and condemnation. Works righteousness brings God’s curse upon your life. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith (Gal. 3:10-11). The fact that he came to Jesus with this question means he felt something was missing in his life; something was not right. This is where everyone ends up when they trust in their own works. They never know if they have done enough. He did not realize that the Law was more than external obedience; it is spiritual and deals with the heart. The Law demands perfect righteousness in every thought, Word, and deed. The Law reveals the bad things we are not to do, think or say and also the good things that God commands us to do, think, and say. The Law reveals whether we truly love God with our whole heart and whether we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If you fail to obey the Law in any point, on the Day of Judgment the Law you were trusting to save you will rise up and condemn you. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (Ja. 2:10).

 

  1. The Law always accuses the sinner. It cannot save. This young man was worshiping an idol he had created in his own mind, an idol of good works. He thought it possible to achieve his own salvation by his own goodness and obedience. He had become his own god, his own Savior, and Jesus wanted him to realize his true condition. (3) This Young man did not understand God’s love. Why did Jesus seek to expose and strip away his false view of God? Was He trying to humiliate this young man publicly? Why does Jesus do the same thing in our lives? I read an article recently on why young people have stopped going to church. They think church is too negative and are tired of being told they are sinners. They just want the churches to accept them as they are. Of course, many churches have responded to this by refusing to preach the Law or expose sin. They are simply seeking to love and accept people into the church. But is this God’s definition of love? No. Jesus exposed this man’s idolatry, error, and sin because He loved him. He wanted him to leave his false gods behind, turn to God and find salvation in Christ alone. Jesus does this same thing in our lives because He loves us. And Jesus looking at Him, loved him. The love of Jesus for this young man was no doubt a love of pity and compassion for a man filled with such a mixture of sincerity and ignorance. Jesus still feels love and compassion for the souls of the ungodly.

 

  1. Our Savior has a special love for His sheep, those who hear His voice and follow Him for they are His bride, joined to Him with an everlasting covenant, but the love of Jesus extends even to those who are enslaved by sin and error. The same Jesus who wept over unbelieving Jerusalem is still the same today. He still longs to gather into His bosom the ignorant, the self-righteous, the faithless, and the impenitent if they are willing to be gathered. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Mt. 23:37). We can tell the worst sinner in the world that Christ loves him and that salvation has been prepared for all people if they will simply come to Christ in faith. This means that if men are lost, it is not because Jesus did not love them, it is not because He did not die for their sins and not because He is unwilling to save them. Men are not saved because of their own stubborn refusal to come to Christ and believe on Him. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved (Jn. 3:19-20). Jesus knew this young man had closed his mind to the Word of God and was in rebellion to God’s Law and so out of love He sought to wake him up.

II.

  1. A misunderstanding about himself. The Rich Young Ruler was ignorant of his own heart and his true spiritual condition. After our Lord had recited the commandments he responded: All these things I have kept from my youth. In other words, I’ve done all that, what else is there for me to do. He was blind to his sins without knowledge of himself. This kind of spiritual blindness is common in our day. There are countless professing Christians sitting in churches that have no idea of their own sinfulness and guilt in the sight of God. They flatter themselves that they have never murdered anyone or stolen anything or committed adultery so they cannot be danger of missing heaven. We forget God’s holiness and how often we break His Law in our hearts, minds and imaginations even when our outward conduct is right. Like the Pharisees we become content with an outward observance of the Law while we forget that God looks at the heart and sees the thoughts and attitudes others cannot see. That is why we need to hear the Law of God again, why we must read Scriptures like the Sermon the Mount, our Lord’s exposition of the Law to gain the knowledge of sin. Without the knowledge of our true condition in sin we will wrap ourselves in self-righteousness, like the church at Laodicea, thinking we are rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing. When we imagine that we can keep God’s Law in our own strength, Christ profits us nothing.

 

  1. This is why Jesus spoke to this young man as He did, why He pressed the demands of the Law upon him and exposed the idols of his heart. He wanted him to understand the condition of his heart and his need of divine grace and forgiveness. When a man is ignorant of the Law he will also be ignorant of the Gospel. When Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee he thought he was right with God. In his own mind he had kept the Law perfectly. In Philippians he lists his credentials: If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ (Phil. 3:4-7). Paul realized that his own personal righteousness was worthless before God. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ (Phil. 3:8). In Romans Paul describes the awakening that took place in his heart the day he understood the spiritual nature of the Law. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

 

  1. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died (Rom. 7:7-9). Paul finally understood that not only did the Law forbid the outward acts of murder and adultery it also condemned the desire of the heart. In other words, not only is adultery wrong so is the desire to do it. Murder is wrong and so is hatred and bitterness. When Paul understood the true meaning of the Law he realized he was dead in sin and in need of forgiveness. Our Lord wasn’t finished with this young man. Not only was he worshiping an idol of good works but also an idol of wealth and riches. He loved money. He was devoted to his possessions. He loved, trusted, and feared his riches. They were the source of his comfort and peace. False gods come in many different shapes and sizes, power, prestige, pride, pleasure, beauty. Every idol needs to be cast down from its throne by repentance, the gift of God given to us by the Law and faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus put his finger directly on the condition of this man’s heart when He said: One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Jesus knew that money was his god. Riches would always keep him from discovering the treasures found only in Christ.

 

  1. The love of money would always prevent him from following Christ. He loved his riches more than he loved his own soul.  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mk. 8:36). In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and this man turned and walked away. Mark tells us when he heard Jesus’ words he was sad and went away grieved and sorrowful for he had great possessions. In reality, his possessions were in control of his life. Christ gives us the true riches when we follow Him, the riches won for us when He lived, died, and rose again from the dead. The righteousness of Christ is perfect, lacking nothing. He kept the Law exactly as God required of us; the only one who ever fulfilled God’s righteous standard. And He shed His blood for you on the cross, redeemed you from death and hell and gained eternal life for you. Because He is the Son of God His redemption on the cross is sufficient for the whole world. Christ purchased your salvation and gives it to you as a free gift through Baptism, Holy Communion, and the hearing of the Gospel. This is what the Rich Young Ruler did not understand and why he would not follow Jesus in repentance and faith. Jesus out of His great love calls you to turn from idols and to follow Him with a heart of faith and love. Today let us lay aside the idols that so easily beset us for the Lord Jesus offers you a much greater possession, eternal life and the riches of your inheritance in Him. Amen.

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

October 4, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 10:2-16

Lord Jesus, blessed Savior, give us grace to cling to Thy Word that we might be faithful stewards.

 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter. And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

 

  1. One of the great truths of the Christian faith is that the knowledge of God may be known by anyone with the help of the Holy Spirit. God has revealed Himself to man in Creation and in His written Word in clear statements of doctrine that can be studied and understood. If you want to know the true God He offers you the opportunity. The true church is not afraid to confess that we know what the Bible teaches. We say with Paul: I know whom I have believed, and with John: we know we have eternal life (I Jn. 5:13). The Gospel of grace is available to all who seek it in the Word of God. Isaiah wrote: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Is. 8:20). When men abandon the Bible they wander away from the truth and end up in spiritual darkness. We believe the Bible is the Word of God because Jesus believed it. He took the Book of Genesis literally just as it was written. When the Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about marriage and divorce He answered: What did Moses command you? Jesus immediately took these men back to the Word of God for the answer. This was the great theme of the Reformation Sola Scriptura; the Scriptures alone. Luther insisted, and rightly so, that all doctrine and authority in the church must come from the Written Word of God not the traditions and teachings of men. In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus tells us what God has revealed in His Word about marriage, family, and the Kingdom of God.

I.

  1. God established families to bring children into the world! God is the creator of marriage. But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. Our understanding of men and women comes from Genesis and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Gender was part of God’s original creation. The fact that you were born as a man or a woman is no accident. Gender is not a human construct it is not manmade. The past few years we have been forced to suffer what is described as Gender Theory. This is the misguided notion that men and women are only different on a physical level, both have the exact same abilities for everything except having babies, whether that means being a soldier, a fireman, or caring for children. Any distinctions between men and women such as men being the head of the household or dressing in ways that are socially appropriate to one’s gender are called social constructs, behaviors that have been forced upon women by an oppressive patriarchal society. There are some ideas in the world that are so ridiculous only a highly educated person could ever believe them. We are told today that it is possible for a person to be a man on a physical level but if he feels like he is actually a female on the inside then he can begin living as his chosen gender, using the women’s restroom, dressing in women’s clothing, and being referred to as she or her. Our nation has departed from the Word of God to the point that mental illness is now being celebrated as normal and wonderful.

 

  1. Gender theory is a complete rejection of the Bible. God created each one of us as either male or female with genetically determined characteristics that are immutable, enduring, and indelible, which means they don’t go away. Men will always be men and women will always be women. Marriage between a man and a woman only matters if the definition of men and women is important. When two men or two women get married they are perverting God’s design for marriage and making the words male and female meaningless. Perversion is distorting something from its original meaning or changing what was first intended. Modern man is seeking to redefine God’s original intent for man. God created us as we are with a biological development marked by the hand of God. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth (Ps. 139:13-14). Not only did God create men and women differently He also established specific norms and expectations for them. Women are specifically told in the Bible to dress modestly and to place their primary focus not on external beauty but on spiritual development (I Pet. 3:1-5). Paul tells God’s people not to live like unbelievers but to present their bodies as living sacrifices within the boundaries and expectations of what it means to be male or female (Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 12:1).

 

  1. The Bible tells women to dress within the cultural expectations of a woman and for men to dress like men. (I Cor. 11:4-6). Paul tells men it is a shame for them to have long hair because a man should not want to look like a woman nor should a woman desire to look like a man. The gender confusion we see today is a mental illness and a deep spiritual sickness. Much of the confusion over gender roles comes from feminism that encourages women to live like men. Young women were taught to be sexually immoral just like the men of the world and to delay marriage to chase after a career. Sadly some of this thinking creeps into churches. Many Christian parents have embraced the thinking of the world in regard to their children. Fathers should be directing their daughters toward marriage and family not corporate careers and climbing the ladder of success. If a young woman finds the right man, she should get married. She will find her greatest happiness in life as she enters the primary task God has designed for her, a wife and mother. We should be encouraging our sons to prepare to be faithful husbands and fathers and to find a vocation that will allow him to support a family. Christian women are to make their husband and children their main priority. Paul wrote to Titus: But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine. What is Paul’s idea of sound doctrine? The Trinity? The doctrine of Justification? The New Birth? What he meant might surprise you.

 

  1. Paul first describes the duties of the aged men and women, and then he instructs the young women: to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:4-5). He also had a few things to say to young men but Paul’s idea of sound doctrine is contrary to the thinking of the world and sadly, many modern Christians. But Paul’s instruction is the secret to a healthy marriage. God intended children to grow up in the context of a family, one man and one woman joined together in a one flesh relationship for life. God created man from the dust of the ground and from Adam He fashioned his wife. Adam and Eve were designed to cleave to one another. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Marriage is between a man and a woman. All sodomite unions are phony and sinful and can never be pleasing to God. Marriage was designed to be monogamous. There, was polygamy in the Old Testament but it was never God’s original design, never the ideal, and in the New Testament, Jesus called His people back to God’s original plan. God created families to bring children into the world. He never intended human beings to breed like animals. Marriage and family are God’s plan to bring children into the world.

II.

  1. God established families to bring children into His Kingdom. God uses a man and a woman to bring children into the world. Kids don’t just drop out of the sky. Through parents children are born, nurtured, and prepared to take their place in the world. Fathers and Mother are uniquely qualified to do this for their children. It’s a wonderful privilege to have children. God said to Adam and Eve: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. David wrote: Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward (Ps. 127:3). Just as God uses families to bring children into the world He also uses them to bring their children into His Kingdom. Have you ever considered this? God gives parents the privilege of bringing their children to Christ by taking them to Holy Baptism and giving them the Word of God at home and in the Church. God desires children to be saved. Children are born in need of forgiveness and new life. In our Gospel lesson we see a beautiful picture of parents bringing their Children (Infants) to Christ for His blessing. The disciples rebuked the parents for bothering our Lord with their children but when our Lord saw what they were doing He was very displeased. He said: Suffer (allow) the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

 

  1. Christ established the Kingdom of grace by His death, burial, and resurrection by living a perfect life and dying a perfect death in our place to redeem us from sin and give us His righteousness by grace through faith. Our sins were so great and our spiritual deadness so complete only the lifeblood of the Son of God could redeem us from sin, death, and hell. We were born in this condition, conceived in sin, with the guilt of Adam imputed to our account and we could not save ourselves. God had to save us or we would be lost forever. God comes to us through physical means to offer, apply and seal the redemption Christ accomplished on the cross for us. Mothers and fathers are the voice of God to their children and He invites them to bring their children to the waters of Baptism and raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. But Pastor, this passage is not talking about Baptism. How can this be referring to infant baptism? It is true this passage does not mention Water Baptism but it does mention parents, infants, the Kingdom of God, and our Lord’s command, promise and invitation. Jesus pointed to the babies that the parents were bringing to him and said: Of such is the Kingdom of God. Notice He did not say all infants were part of the Kingdom of God but that from this particular group we call infants were members of the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the Kingdom of grace consisting of sinners that have received grace and mercy from God by faith in Jesus Christ.

 

  1. How does one enter the Kingdom of God? There is only one entrance into God’s Kingdom the New Birth of the Spirit. Jesus said to Nicodemus: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:5). If Jesus said infants could be members of the Kingdom of Grace then He was also saying it was possible for them to be born again. How? By the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The only water in the New Testament connected to our salvation is Baptism; the washing of water by the Word. Peter told the people on the Day of Pentecost about the promise of Baptism, the forgiveness of sins and the New Birth, a promise given to them and their children. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:39). The new birth presupposes saving faith for it is impossible to be born again apart from faith. This means that God is able to give faith to infants in a way we cannot comprehend, a seed of life that must be watered with the Word of God and prayer to take root in their hearts and cause them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Someone objects: But how can a child be saved when he can’t do anything to come to Christ? You’re exactly right and that’s exactly what Jesus said. We can do nothing to save ourselves. We can’t even prepare ourselves to be converted. Salvation is the work of God from start to finish.

 

  1. God continues to come to His people through His Word to offer the gifts of forgiveness, grace, faith and the new birth apart from our works. Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, and is unwilling to lay aside his own righteousness and good works, and believe the promises of God revealed in His Word, will not enter it. This reminds us to give thanks to God for our parents who loved us and brought us to the Word of God, the Waters of Baptism, and the church. I heard a young man once complaining that his parents had not given him very much in the way of Biblical understanding and knowledge while he was growing up. I reminded him that perhaps they gave him everything they had, they just didn’t have much to give. But now he had the opportunity to give his children all of the things his parents were unable to give him. Also the church must learn to value children, to welcome them to the divine service, and to be patient with them as they are learning to take part in the worship. Sadly many people in our society see children as a nuisance and a burden that robs them of their fun and recreation. Children are God’s gift to you, a blessing to your family, to the nation, and to the Church, the Kingdom of God. We must not imitate the thinking of the world but encourage young people to have enough faith to enter into marriage and receive God’s blessing of children without fear. May God grant us these blessings this morning for Christ’s sake; Amen.

 

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

September 20, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan Pastor

Mark 9:30-37; James 3:13-4:10

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our blessed Savior.

And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

 

  1. Who is the greatest person here this morning? If you had asked the same question to the people in the presidential debate last Wednesday you would have heard eleven different answers. We all desire to be great in our own world. Everyone wants to be significant and influential in the lives of the people they know. We like people to think we are wise and understanding. We enjoy being praised for our abilities and accomplishments and we love to get the top prize and the privileges and perks of power. As a man said once: Nothing succeeds like success. There is nothing wrong with success until it morphs into pride, vanity, and arrogance. By nature we are all Pharisees. Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a Publican who went to the temple to pray and like the Pharisee, we like to think better of ourselves than we ought and we enjoy looking down on others who don’t measure up. Pride is the mother of all sins. It was pride that caused God to cast the devil out of heaven and pride caused Adam and Eve to rebel against God. Pride is very subtle. It can attach itself to the holiest duties in the Christian life. A man can be proud of his prayer life, his worship, even his sanctification. Pride can rule in your heart undetected and can even appear to others as humility. Impenitent pride will send a man’s soul to hell for it will keep a person from repenting from sin and believing on Christ. When pride demands praise, prestige, and position it is a poison in a man’s soul.

I.

  1. The standard of true greatness: Instead of putting myself at the center of my universe Jesus calls us to a life of service. Listen to our epistle reading once again: Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom does not come from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (James 3:13-18). Jesus said the same thing: If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. Both of these Scriptures are very instructive for they show us that the thinking of this world is directly contrary to the mind of Christ. The world’s idea of greatness is to rule when Christian greatness is to serve. The world loves to receive honor and to magnify their glory and accomplishments but the Christian desires to give to others rather than receive. Wisdom is not just book smarts or knowing a lot of facts, true wisdom is revealed in how we live our lives. Wisdom can be seen in our character and conduct. This is the wisdom that comes down from above and is received by the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. James is describing the character of Jesus Christ which is the fruits of the Spirit in our lives as we walk by faith in Christ. Notice the wisdom from above is first pure. God’s wisdom is holy, just, good, and true. We must never sacrifice the truth of God’s Word for peace with others. We are all the sheep of Christ who hear His Word and follow Him. For this reason the wisdom of God has no hidden agendas, no secret gossip and slander, and no bitterness of heart. Our relationship to God must be open, transparent, and honest. This is how God deals with us and it is how He expects us to deal with others. When our relationship with God and our brethren has been established on the purity of God’s Word and a heart of grace then we can live with others in peace in true gentleness and mercy, without partiality and hypocrisy. One of the most perplexing things I have experienced as a pastor is having one of our members greet me with a smile at church and tell me how much they appreciate me to my face only to discover later that they had been ripping me to shreds to their friends and fellow church members during the week. This happened several years ago and I only found out about it because one of people involved told me about it. I asked him why he did not defend me or at least direct this person to speak to me. He told me he had not thought of that. I was reminded of the story of the fellow who told his pastor: I defended you last night. Someone said you were not worth eating with pigs, and I said you were.

 

  1. What the member didn’t realize was I might have agreed with most of their criticisms against me. They didn’t know half of the details that I knew. But my point is, the secret thoughts of the heart that are hidden from your Christian brethren are not hidden from God. O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether (Ps. 139:1-4). He sees the selfishness, jealousy, envy and bitterness in our hearts. When pride and self-seeking overflow into our relationships with people in the church, in our family, and at work, what is the result? With pride comes chaos, disorder, conflict. Pride disrupts peace and harmony and causes bitterness, a lack of forgiveness, resentment and broken relationships. James wrote: From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (Ja. 4:1). The Christian has to deal with his old sinful nature. The old Adam cannot be disciplined, cannot be changed, and will continue to hate God until the day we meet the Lord. Man’s sinful condition from birth is so bad that the only thing that can be done with his sinful flesh is to put it to death every day through our Holy Baptism by repentance and faith.

 

  1. The only answer to our struggle with sin is a daily renewing of our faith by dying with Christ and being raised to newness of life. What does James tell us to do? Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord (Ja. 4:8-10). If you will humble ourselves before God He will exalt you; He will lift you up. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble and He invites you to come to the throne of Grace humbly yet boldly any time of the day or night to receive grace and help in time of need. He will forgive and cleanse wretched sinners just like us. For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another (Ps. 75:6-7). This is the grace of God offered to us in Christ; God’s unmerited favor and forgiveness. The Lord reminds us to become a servant to our fellow man, especially our Christian brethren, to be kind and seek to promote their happiness and to serve them when they are in need. The Lord said on the Day of Judgment we will be judged by how we treated our brethren in need, how we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, visited the sick and the prisoner in their distress, and gave shelter to the stranger. Jesus said: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

II.

  1. The example of true greatness: Jesus the Son of God was the Wisdom that comes down from above, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was made man and dwelt among us. Jesus was God’s wisdom in human flesh born to rescue us from ourselves and from the power of Satan by laying down His life on our behalf. The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him. The death of Christ was a voluntary sacrifice offered of His own free will. He was not delivered up to Pilate to be crucified because He could not overcome His enemies. His death was the result of the eternal councils of the Holy Trinity. He came to earth to suffer for man’s sake, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God as the Substitute and Surety for our sins and the sins of the whole world. He went to the cross willingly and knowingly, with full consent that He might pay our debts by His own blood. Christ was the Suffering Servant who came to serve mankind by doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished our salvation. He completed what He came to do. Mission complete! God’s Law was fulfilled, our sins are now covered and completely forgiven. Your new life in Christ is now victorious over sin, death and hell. You are new person in Christ joined to the Triune God in Holy Baptism.

 

  1. As a new creation there is a new you that will live for others and not just for yourself. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor 5:14-15). The new you is interested in serving God and through His power you are willing and able to do so. This is the renewing of your mind and the transforming of your thinking that makes your relationships with others what God intends. God makes us into servants He makes us like Christ who is meek and lowly of heart (Mt. 11:28-30). Don’t ever confuse meekness with weakness. Meekness is strength under control. Jesus was the meekest man who ever lived because He was the strongest man who ever lived. He was the Almighty Son of God who humbled Himself to become a servant for the world. This is the mind God plants within us in the new birth. 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 (Phil. 2:5-9).

 

  1. Meekness is being like Jesus, so strong and secure you are willing to take the lower place in humility and do the jobs no one else is willing to do, and serve others with joy. That is true strength of character. When you know who you are before God you don’t have to be number one. Your strength, security, and confidence are in Christ and nothing can change that. You have been set free to serve. We see a beautiful picture of Christ as God’s Servant on the night He was betrayed. Jesus was about to lay down His life for the world to establish the New Covenant. He was the most important person in the whole world at that moment. Everything rested on Him and He knew it. John writes: Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God. God had placed everything in Heaven and on Earth into the hands of Jesus His Son. Think for a moment, what would you do if you knew that God had placed all things into your hands? How would you use that kind of power and authority? How did Jesus use the power His Father had given to Him? He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded (Jn. 13:4-5). Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and earth, God in the flesh, knowing He possessed all power in the universe, humbly knelt down and washed the feet of His disciples.

 

  1. Then He turned to His disciples and said: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (Vs. 14-15). Jesus turned their understanding upside down which is really right side up. If any would be first he must be last of all and servant of all. And who did this more than Jesus Himself? He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. There is no greater servant than Jesus Himself. At that point He took a child set him in their midst and said: Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. Do you want to be great? Then serve this child. Take time to encourage the old man in the nursing home everyone has forgotten or go visit the lonely neighbor next door that no one cares about. These are people who will not help you get ahead in life, the people that can’t do anything for you. They won’t advance your career. Most people will not even know you did anything for them, but Christ will know, and He will reward you. God wants us to care for the poor, the lonely, the least, and the lost in society. Jesus reminds us this morning that we are in Christ and are able to love people and strong enough to be a servant. This is God’s wisdom. If you desire it, ask Him for it. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and it shall be given him. Amen

 

 

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

September 13, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 9:14-29

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

And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them? And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

 

  1. Jesus, Peter, James, and John returned from the Mount of Transfiguration and the vision of divine glory to rejoin the other disciples. After experiencing the glory of God’s presence they had to go back to real life, to the afflictions, struggles and tribulations of the world. When they arrived they saw a young boy in agony, a father in distress, some frustrated disciples and a group of Scribes from Jerusalem ridiculing and arguing with the disciples because they couldn’t cast out the demon from the boy. The devil was attacking a child. His father told Jesus the demon had possessed the boy since he was an infant. This why we bring our children to Holy Baptism, why we pray for their souls, and why we teach them God’s Word, to protect them from the power of the devil. Christ alone can save and protect our children. Why were the disciples unable to cast out the demon? Jesus had already given them authority over unclean spirits earlier when He sent them out to preach. We read in Luke: And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven (Lu. 10:17-20).

 

  1. Why were they so weak? Why are Christians in the churches today so weak? The problem is unbelief. Jesus said this was the condition of the people of His day: O faithless (unbelieving) generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? The greatest challenge Jesus faced while He was on earth was unbelief. In His hometown when He tried to minister to the people: And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief (Mk. 6:5-6a). The people of Israel simply refused to believe Jesus was the Messiah. Even after He healed the blind man and raised Lazarus from the dead they still refused to believe. We see the same thing today. The majority of people in our nation ignore God’s Word. They are indifferent to what the Bible has to say about morality, truth, and a relationship to God. The enemies of God are trying to destroy saving faith in the hearts of our people by passing laws that violate the consciences of faithful Christians. Conscience, the sense of right and wrong, is the natural knowledge of God written in the heart and if we lose this knowledge our country will end up in chaos. When our courts make sin legal they are encouraging people to sin which destroys the knowledge of God. What we are seeing in our nation is a lack of faith in Christ and His Word and without faith people cannot be saved or stand before their enemies.

I.

  1. The necessity of faith: Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6). Faith is confidence in the one true God that leads a Christian to build his life, his family, his church and nation according to God’s word. Faith gives us courage. Faith will give a child of God the strength to stand up against the enemies of God. Faith will oppose ungodly laws. We not only have a private duty to reject laws that are contrary to the Word of God, we also have an obligation to protect our fellow citizens when it is within our power. It is one thing for the state to engage in evil but quite another for them to force us to do their evil deeds for them. The County Clerk in Kentucky who refused to sign homosexual marriage licenses was protecting the people of Rowen County from sin. She was operating lawfully. There was no law requiring her to license homosexual marriages. Courts do not make laws. She was being faithful to her oath of office her oath to the Constitution of the United States and to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Law did not allow her to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals and lesbians. She was acting in good faith and integrity and was standing not just on personal opinion or conscience, but on the law of God and the Laws of her state. What gave this woman strength to stand up for the truth in the face of opposition from the courts, the media, public opinion, and even many churches? Her faith in Christ and the knowledge of the Word of God gave her courage. This is what true faith does.

 

  1. Faith in Christ connects us to God. Faith is no option. We need faith to be saved, we need faith to die, and we need faith to live in this world. As the Christian faith declines in America and Europe our people forget who they are. When a nation loses the true faith it will grow weak and unable to defend itself against its enemies. America’s loss of faith has made us so weak we allow illegal aliens to invade and colonize our country. We see this same loss of faith in Europe as thousands of Muslims destroy the last remnants of Christianity in Europe. The Christian church has enemies in this world. One Rabbi said the influx of Muslims into Europe was excellent news because the death of Christianity will bring back the Messiah. The Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban is one of the few European leaders speaking out on behalf of the Christian faith in light of the Muslim invasion. He was a former atheist when Hungary was part of the Soviet Union but now he a Christian. He said the Christian faith is what preserves his nation’s identity. Faith in Christ will resist anyone who tries to take away our nation and its freedom. God promised to judge His people if they refused to believe and obey His Word. He said in Deuteronomy 28 that if His people refused to hearken unto His voice and to keep His commandments that people from other nations would enter their land and take away their possessions, their vineyards, livestock and crops. Israel would be in debt to foreigners (Vs. 44) who would rule over them.

 

  1. Also their sons and daughters would intermarry with foreigners from other nations (Vs. 32) and incurable sickness and disease would fill the land. When a Christian nation loses faith it has consequences for this life and the next. Faith is trusting in the promises of God in Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1). Faith is the hand that reaches out to receive the promise of forgiveness in the Gospel. Faith is the ability to walk with God in obedience to His Word. Faith gives salvation, courage and success. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Josh 1:8-9). Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Deut 31:6). Without a renewal of faith in this country, our people will be unable to oppose false doctrine and sin and too weak to fight tyranny or oppose evil laws that contradict the Word of God.

II.

  1. The Source of faith: Where does faith come from? Many people misunderstand faith. They think man can acquire faith on his own. If man is able to create faith in his own heart, the question becomes, does he have faith in God or faith in himself? Some believe that we cooperate with God in the process of faith, but man has no power to create saving faith in his own heart nor does he have any desire to do so. God is the source of saving faith. The Holy Spirit grants faith and new life through the Word of God. When the people asked Jesus: What shall we do that we may work the works of God? He replied: This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He hath sent. (Jn. 6:28-29). Paul wrote: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17). In both of these verses it is the Holy Spirit who creates, sustains, and strengthens saving faith in our hearts through His Word and Sacraments. In the Augsburg Confession we read: That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake (AC. V). Faith is a gift from God given to sinners through the preaching of the Word, the means of grace.

 

  1. Jesus said that His disciples were weak and powerless because of unbelief. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matt. 17:19-20). They needed faith that only God can give. The father of the little boy also realized his lack of faith. He turned to our Lord and said: If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. The boy’s father had faith; it was weak but his faith was real. If he had had no faith he would not have asked the Lord to help his unbelief. After our Lord cast out the demon He said to His disciples: This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. Some early Greek manuscripts omit the word fasting in this verse while others do not, regardless, the most important element in the verse is prayer. Jesus had given the disciples authority to cast out demons but they had forgotten to pray; they had neglected the real source of their strength and failed to maintain a living relationship with God. Jesus said: Without Me you can do nothing. Our strength is in the Lord.

 

  1. Prayer is the voice of faith. The disciples were trusting in themselves and their own power instead of the strength and power that only comes from God. Prayer is based upon the promises of God. Prayer is the expression of faith. I believe this is why the church is so weak today and why we are unable to stand before the enemies of God. The people of God in the churches have neglected the Word of God. They have failed to repent and failed to pray. People do not pray because they do not realize their sinful condition. How often do Christians sin with their words? But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (Ja. 3:8-10). We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We are often anxious and fearful and doubt God’s promises. We forget the words of Jesus when He said: All things are possible to him that believeth. We come here today because we realize that our faith is weak. We come here asking God to strengthen our faith through His Word and Sacraments. These are the means God uses to create, sustain, and strengthen faith in our hearts. Through Baptism, absolution, preaching and Holy Communion the Lord drives out the evil spirits that seek to harm us. On the cross Jesus conquered all the unclean spirits in the universe. We have nothing to fear.

 

  1. The devil cannot possess a Christian for the Lord has redeemed us lost and condemned persons, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. (Second Article of the Creed). Are we are going to stumble and fall in our faith? Yes. But we will cry out to God: Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief. These words reflect the heart of a true Christian. Trust and doubt, hope and fear often exist side by side in our hearts. What can we do? We must use our faith even when we are weak, doubting and feeble. And we must continue taking our unbelief to the Lord asking for His help. Our Savior has absolute power and authority over the devil and all his angels. Greater is he that is in us than all the devils in hell. When Jesus spoke to that evil spirit it had to obey Him. Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him. Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him. He saves from the devil, from the power of sin, and of the world. Jesus our Good Shepherd leads us each day and keeps us in the true faith unto life everlasting. May God grant these things unto us this day; Amen

 

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

September 6, 2015

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Mark 7:24-37

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

 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed. And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

 

  1. I recently heard a mega-church pastor’s view of evangelism and how the church should reach out to those who have dropped out of church. He said young people were avoiding church today because they are tired of hearing a negative message. They don’t want to be told they are sinners in need of grace. He said this is what churches do and it turns young people off. He suggested instead, that the church should simply love and accept these people, get them involved in church programs, and eventually they will understand their need for the Gospel and be saved. This sounds promising, after all, who would object to loving people? I agree that the church should love people as they are and invite them to hear the Word of God. We should also gently encourage them in their search for the truth, but this begs the question: What is love from a Biblical perspective? Jesus was the greatest evangelist who ever lived. He loved sinners and understood them perfectly. He knew exactly what men and women needed, so, how did Christ deal with people He was trying to reach? When Jesus spoke to sinners His words to them always included the Law of God. He was not afraid to reveal their sins, errors and need of repentance. He was faithful in showing them from Scripture where they were wrong. When the modern church separates the love of God from His Law it will turn into a phony, humanistic love that will compromise the truth.

 

  1. The call of Christ to sinners is a call to repentance and faith which only comes by an understanding of the Law and of sin. The Law reveals our need of Christ. When we elevate a humanistic love above the Law the church may attract lots of people but they will not be saved. When Jesus spoke to the Woman at the Well He confronted her with her sin. She was guilty of adultery. She had had five husbands and was not married to the man she was living with at that moment. Was this a negative message? Sure. She probably wished He hadn’t mentioned it, but it was just these words that convicted her of sin and led her to faith in Christ. When the Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus asking what good work He could do to inherit eternal life the Bible says that Jesus loved him. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me (Mark 10:21). Did Christ’s love for this young man keep Him from speaking the Law to him? Not at all. He exposed his greed and revealed what it meant to be His disciple. When this young man heard what Jesus said he was so depressed and angry he turned and walked away and when he did, Jesus let him leave. Our relationship to God is built on truth not phony love and compassion. The Church must speak the truth in love and never allow false compassion to keep us from speaking.

I.

  1. God sets the terms of our relationship to Him: In our Gospel lesson a Gentile woman dared to approach the Lord to ask Him to heal her demon possessed daughter. Somehow she had heard of our Lord’s power to heal the sick and cast out demons so she fell at His feet pleading for help. The problem was, she had no right to ask anything of our Lord. She was a Gentile, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and (a) stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12b). In Matthew Jesus said to her: I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 15:24). Our relationship to God is by grace but it is also a legal relationship based on the Law. God has established His relationship with man according to a legal Covenant. In simple terms, a covenant is an agreement between two parties. The most familiar example of a covenant is the agreement between a husband and wife. Covenants can exist between friends, business partners, even nations. The New Covenant is an agreement between God and man. God Himself sets the terms of this Covenant and makes the offer to us and we must respond by either cooperating or resisting it. At the very center of our Covenant with God is the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the embodiment of the Covenant; the Word of God made flesh for us; the Son of God and Son of Man; the very Mind and Meaning of God Himself. Christ is the basis for our relationship with God.

 

  1. In other words, Christians are legally connected to their Creator by a sworn Covenant in which God tells us in advance what He is going to do for us. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer. 31:33-34). Christ was born to establish the New Covenant. In it God swore to give us His Holy Spirit, the New Birth, the forgiveness of sins, and the knowledge of Himself. The writer of Hebrews describes the Covenant God made with Abraham when He promised that the Messiah would be born from his descendants, and all the nations of the world would be blessed through Him. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:13; 17-19).

 

  1. The New Covenant included the entire world. Isaiah wrote: I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles (Is. 42:6). Christ is our Mediator with God and able to represent both parties and also to be both parties. As God, He did what only God could do, keep the law perfectly in our stead and lay down His life for our forgiveness. As a human, He did what humanity was supposed to do, to respond perfectly. Until the sinner is justified before God and declared righteous by faith he has no relationship to God. The Lord takes His Covenant of Grace very seriously. Therefore when this woman came asking for a miracle He reminded her that she no claim on Him. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. God takes care of His own children first. He would not allow a stranger to take bread out of His children’s mouths. God designed the world in the same way. Mankind was designed to live in extended family groups. Blood ties are the only natural and workable basis for a healthy society. But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8). There is a hierarchy to our love. God expects us to love and provide for our own family first before we help others. The same is true in our nation. Our own people should come first.

II.

  1. God welcomes us into His family by faith. Jesus had come to feed His own Covenant people with the Word of God. The promise of salvation was offered first to the nation of Israel. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not (Jn. 1:10-11). The Greek Word for His own is the same word Paul uses in I Timothy 5:8 when he wrote: if any provide not for his own. The word his own refers to the House of Israel. But the Jews rejected Him and in God’s providence, their rejection of the promised Messiah became our blessing. Israel was cut off from the olive tree of God’s Covenant and the Gentiles were grafted in. We now share in all the blessings God promised to Abraham. We were strangers to God but now in Christ we are partakers of His Covenant. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of two one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (Eph. 2:13-16). 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. 3:26-27).

 

  1. We are joined to God by faith in His promise of forgiveness revealed in Jesus Christ in whom: 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 (Ga. 3:28-29). Faith is pleasing to God. He delights in it. When Jesus spoke these words to this extraordinary woman the Holy Spirit brought her to faith in Christ. She replied: Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs (Vs. 28). The words of our Lord were intended for Israel but here was a Gentile woman who heard His words and by the work of the Holy Spirit believed and inwardly digested His words and ate the crumbs that fell. The Lord announced that her daughter was healed from that very moment. The power to deliver her daughter from Satan did not come from the woman’s prayer but from Christ Himself. She was a Sheep from another fold just as our Lord had predicted would happen. As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (Jn. 10:15-16). After this the Lord fed the deaf man who was suffering from a speech impediment by opening his ears and releasing his tongue with the simple word Ephphatha: Be opened.

 

  1. The Lord welcomed the Gentile woman and the deaf man to His table to feed upon His Word as forerunners of the New Covenant that was going to include the entire world. Jesus was the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. 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). The Lord continues welcoming His Covenant children to partake of the Bread of Life. He teaches us through the preaching of His Word and establishes fellowship with all who confess Him as their Savior and Lord and the true Children of God respond to His Word by faith. Along with hearing His Word, the Lord also invites us to receive His Body and Blood, the Bread of Life, offered to us in Holy Communion. And one day in Heaven we will dine with Him in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb for eternity. But sometimes our sinful nature does not like what the Lord feeds us. His Law can be difficult to swallow, especially when we hear who we really are, sinful, unclean, and in league with the devil. This is the real reason people are avoiding the true Church. They don’t like the taste of God’s Word. They don’t want to hear what God has to say and they resent being told they cannot do what they want because it feels good. They want something else. They demand a god who will deal with them on their terms. Yet when men come to God on their own terms and not according to His Word it brings eternal death and destruction.

 

  1. This is why the Church must continue proclaiming Law and Gospel and calling sinners to repentance and faith. We dare not lower the standards of God’s Word in the name of love or compassion or people will not be saved. We must also pray that the Lord would open the ears of the spiritually deaf. The Syrophenician woman reminds us that saving faith is often found where we never expected to find it. God is able to give His Word success even the hearts of those who have wandered away from Him. The salvation of two Gentiles was a fulfillment of the words of the Old Testament that a day was coming when: the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). When Jesus saw the great faith of the Roman Centurion He said: 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 (Mt. 8:11-12). God uses us to call out His elect from the world. Therefore let us pray for the mind of Christ and be gentle, kind, and encouraging toward everyone who is seeking the truth. No one who comes to Christ will be cast out. Sometimes the Lord may keep us waiting as He did this woman, but He will never send us away empty. The Savior who heard the prayer of the Canaanite woman will one day answer our prayers. Amen.