December 16, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan, Pastor
Matthew 1:18-25: Joseph
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
- Whenever I hear the Christmas story I can’t help but notice that Joseph doesn’t get much attention. Even in the manger scenes Joseph is usually off to one side and often mistaken for one of the shepherds. The true Christian church does not pray to the saints but we can honor and learn from their lives. Christian tradition tells us that Joseph was older than Mary, perhaps a widower, but no one really knows. We don’t read anything about Joseph in the Gospel record after the family’s visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-52). This is the only glimpse the Bible gives us of our Lord’s childhood. You remember the story, after the Passover feast, without His parent’s knowledge, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem discussing the Word of God with the scholars in the Temple. When Mary and Joseph discovered him missing from the caravan on the way home they returned to search for Him in the city and after three days they finally found Him in the Temple. When they told Jesus how worried they had been He said to them: How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke tells us Jesus returned to His home in Nazareth and lived in submission to Joseph and Mary.
- Later at a wedding in Cana Mary was present (John 2:1-11) but Joseph is not mentioned. At His crucifixion Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John His disciple which suggests there was no one else to care for her (John 19:26-27). What do we know about Joseph? He was a true believer. The Bible does not record a single word Joseph ever spoke. He was a man of action rather than words. Joseph worked as a carpenter to support his family and was also a dreamer of sorts. Three times an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream, the first after discovering Mary was pregnant and an angel said to Him: Joseph thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 1:20). The second time was a warning to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod (Matt. 2: 13-15), and the third was when the angel told him to return to Israel (Matt. 2:19-23). In every instance Joseph immediately obeyed the Lord. This is how the church remembers Joseph! He was a man of faith and good works, a man willing to obey God regardless of the cost. Sometimes being obedient to God will cost you. Perhaps you’ve experienced this. Has the will of God ever interrupted what you were planning to do? Have you ever lost a business deal or a job because you were true to God’s Word? Has standing for the truth ever cost you a friendship? Following the will of God can change your plans and this describes the life of Joseph.
- Joseph and Mary were planning to get married when Mary suddenly turns up pregnant. She likely told Joseph about the appearance of the angel and the virgin birth and Joseph ends up believing her, which is a miracle in itself. Luther said there were two miracles of the incarnation; the first was that God became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and the second miracle was that Joseph believed the angel. Who would make up a story like that and expect anyone, much less a fiancé to believe it? But here we see Joseph’s character again. After he learned Mary was pregnant he struggled with what he should do, and being a just man and wanting to do what was right for Mary he decided to quietly break the engagement to avoid scandal. It was the decent thing to do. But while considering his options an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream to tell him that Mary was indeed pregnant by the Holy Spirit and the baby she was carrying would be the Messiah and Savior of the world. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His Name JESUS for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. The angel did not explain how this was possible he simply revealed to Joseph what God had done and Joseph believed him.
- The Angel told Joseph to name the child JESUS which means Jehovah is Salvation. The child would fulfill the words of Isaiah: Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son (Is. 14:7).The Son of Mary would be called Emmanuel, which interpreted means: God with us. He would be the Seed of the Woman promised in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15); the promised Messiah who would crush the head of the serpent and bring life, peace, and forgiveness to mankind. Many liberal theologians deny the Virgin Birth but without this doctrine the Christian faith collapses. If Jesus had an earthly father He would have inherited Adam’s sinful nature and could not have been our Savior. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, true God and true Man, Son of God and Son of Mary; fully divine yet fully human, born to save the world from sin. Joseph was given the incredible task of being a stepfather to the Son of God to protect and provide for the child and His mother in his early years. What an incredible story! Needless to say, the will of God changed Joseph’s plans. His life would never be the same. Did Joseph ever have any doubts when all this was happening? I am sure he had a few questions but the Bible simply says when he awoke from his dream he did exactly as the angel commanded. He took Mary as his wife, named the child Jesus, and raised him as his own son! Joseph was a vital part in helping bring Jesus, God’s gift to mankind, into the world.
- The gift of salvation comes to mankind by God’s sovereign will, apart from human works and merit, yet for the plan of salvation to be complete it required a YES from Joseph and Mary. By the grace of God, they cooperated with God just as He expects us to cooperate with His work in our lives and in the world. Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Heb. 5:9). You can no more separate saving faith from obedience than light from the sun or fire from heat. Saving faith works by love which motivates good works in our lives. We are saved by grace through faith and good works are the evidence of faith. Faith is the root and good works are the fruit of salvation. When you see an apple tree you cannot see the roots of the tree, they are below ground and not visible. So how do you know the tree is alive? By its fruit. Jesus said: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit (Jn. 15:5). How can we know that we are alive in Christ? Because we believe the promise of forgiveness in the Gospel and by the fruits of faith we see in our lives. Joseph said yes to God’s Word. Mary was a descendant of David but Joseph was the legal Son of David. It was our Lord’s relationship to Joseph and his connection to Bethlehem that required the family to travel to that city for the Roman census and it was in Bethlehem that Jesus was born to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.
- The prophecies of the Old Testament had to be fulfilled. The Word of God could not fail to come to pass. In Advent we celebrate the Word made flesh; Christ born of a virgin mother, born in weakness and humility, born to save us by the manger and the cross; born into a life of poverty and service. Today the Lord Jesus Christ still comes to His people in humility and simplicity in the simple waters of Baptism, in the Words of Absolution, in the preaching of the Gospel and in the bread and wine of the Communion Supper. The world thinks these things are foolish and unnecessary as Paul wrote: 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). Man cannot understand or believe the Gospel apart from the new birth. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). Only the Spirit of God can grant new life to the heart of a sinner through the Word of the Gospel and Holy Baptism. The church’s real treasure is Christ! He condescends to us through the means of grace to offer apply and seal the forgiveness of sins to our hearts and to gives us a new relationship to God. Christ came to earth the first time in a manger of wood filled with straw. To the human eye it was nothing but to the eyes of faith He is the most precious treasure in the universe, the very riches of God. What are some applications of the life of Joseph?
- Joseph teaches us NOT to place our trust in human reason when seeking to understand the things of God. Paul wrote: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (I Cor. 1:18; 23-25). Christ laid down His life to redeem the world from sin, but you would never understand or believe the Gospel until the Spirit of God opens your eyes to receive it. We are totally dependent upon the revelation of God’s Word for the knowledge of divine things. The Christian soon realizes that the most important realities in the universe are not visible to the human eye. We cannot see or touch them. God must reveal the truth to us. If we live our lives only by what we can see, touch, hear or understand we will never be saved. In fact, Jesus said our Heavenly Father hides His truth from men who think they are wise in this world and reveals it unto infants, to those willing to believe the Gospel in simple faith. The cross of Christ is the wisdom of God for the ages. Paul wrote: For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (I Cor. 2:2, 5).
- Joseph also reminds the Christian to hear and obey the Word of God. Only the believing obey and only the obedient believe. Whenever a person will not believe and obey God’s Word he is a stranger to God. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 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. 10:26-28). People do not realize how serious it is for a professing Christian or Church to deny the clear Word of God and embrace false doctrine. When we leave the light of God’s truth and depart from the path of holiness, we are stepping into darkness, into error and sin. This is the devil’s territory. Churches that embrace the false doctrines so prevalent in our day end up being ruled by Satan. Christ will not dwell with sin, there is no fellowship between light and darkness. Churches that deny God’s Word and enable people to live in sin are no longer worshiping the true God. Christ is outside that church knocking on the door to be let in. You may have to suffer for believing and standing for God’s Word. I have a friend whose son is working on his PhD in Astro Physics and is being pressured to embrace evolution. Obedience to God’s Word may cost you a university degree. This young man has already surrendered the Book of Genesis for theistic evolution. Joseph understood there are mysteries we believe simply because God has revealed them in His Word.
- Joseph obeyed God’s Word with a willing cheerful heart even when he did not understand all that God was doing. By faith he took Mary to be his wife as a faithful husband and stepfather. When there was danger Joseph protected Mary and Jesus taking them to Egypt until their enemies had died to fulfill the word of the Prophet that the Messiah would be called out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1). Later Joseph moved his family back to Israel, to the village of Nazareth to fulfill yet another prophecy, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene (Mt. 2:23). God uses His people to accomplish His sovereign decrees in the world. Just as He used Joseph and Mary to bring Jesus into the world He uses us to bring Christ into our world by our lives and words. Your faith and obedience to God are vitally important to the people in your life, more important than you can imagine. We are fellow laborers with Christ in the lives of our family, friends, and coworkers. We should ask God to give us the faith of Joseph, faith to trust and obey God’s Word in every calling of life, as a husband, wife, child, church member, or parent. Joseph and Mary believed on Jesus as their Savior just as we do, though at first their understanding was not as complete. They would eventually understand that Jesus was God in the flesh, born to redeem the world from sin and to give us eternal life by faith in Him. This is our hope this evening as we receive the promise of the Holy Sacrament the remission of sins. Amen.
December 13, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
Lord Jesus Christ, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant us hearts of faith and joy.
And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxuries, are in palaces. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
- Today we light the pink or rose colored candle on our Advent Wreath. Purple is the symbol of repentance, a reminder of John the Baptist calling the people to repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. In Advent the Lord calls us to mourn over our sins, repent and bear fruit in keeping with our repentance. Advent is the church preparing for the Lord’s return. Rose is the color of rejoicing reflected in the words of our Introit: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. In the midst of repentance there is joy, just as the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents (Lu. 15:7, 10). We rejoice because Christmas is coming soon, the return of Christ is near and our redemption draweth nigh. God calls us to rejoice even though for a time we have to endure affliction, trials, aches, pains, sickness, and sadness. We rejoice though the world around us is often perplexing. I imagine many of the families of those killed in San Bernardino in the terrorist attacks are wondering how in the world this could have happened? Where was God when this was going on? John the Baptist had a similar question for our Lord. God had chosen John to be the forerunner of Christ to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight. He was sent to call the people of Israel back to God’s covenant through repentance and baptism. He came in the spirit of Elijah (Mt. 11:14), proclaiming the salvation of God’s people and judgment against the wicked.
- The multitudes who came to be baptized by John had never seen nor heard anyone like him. He proclaimed God’s judgment against the wicked: the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire (Lu. 3:9). God was going to chop down the high and mighty, burn the proud and defiant in the fires of Hell, and save the humble and repentant. John was not afraid of anyone, not the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, not even King Herod whom he rebuked for committing adultery with his brother’s wife. But what happened to John? In the middle of a successful ministry, Herod had him arrested and put in prison. John no doubt wondered, was this God’s plan? After all, King Herod was still sitting on his throne, rebelling against God’s Law and no one opposed him. Why didn’t the Lord do something? John had preached exactly what the Lord had told him, that when the Messiah came He would overthrow the wicked and deliver the righteous. But now John was sitting in prison and King Herod was living in luxury. Nothing had changed. Finally John decided to send two of his disciples to ask Jesus a question. Are you the one or should we look for another? He was asking: I’ve heard about your ministry and the miracles you perform, but where is the judgment I’ve been preaching about? When is God going to overthrow the wicked? Jesus answered John’s question.
- Jesus took the judgment of sin upon Himself. Christ came to accomplish a much greater judgment than mere earthly kings. The wicked would one day be judged and destroyed just as John had predicted, but first another judgment had to take place, God’s judgment against sin. John heard Christ’s message of forgiveness, reconciliation, love, and peace and wondered, had he gotten it wrong? Had he placed his confidence in the wrong person? God established the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world in the person of His Son Jesus Christ who would judge sin and the devil once and for all. Paul wrote: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (II Cor.5:21). Jesus took the penalty of our sins upon Himself so that now God the Father could declare sinners righteous and by faith personally justify them in His sight. Years ago people used to have accounts at local stores which allowed them to buy things on credit. This was long before credit cards were invented. If you had a debt with the local shopkeeper and someone came into the store and paid the debt for you, the storeowner would stamp your account paid in full. This meant he had no further right to collect the debt from you for it was gone and could no longer be charged to your account. The debt was paid and you were no longer bound by it. The same is true of the debt of our sins we have with God. Sins are often described in the Bible as debts we owe to God.
- Because of Christ’s death on the cross God no longer charges or imputes our sins to us. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:19). If the owner of the store met you on the street and demanded payment for your debt you could tell him to go jump in the lake. Your debt has been satisfied, full payment was made. The devil loves to accuse us of our sins. So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His Name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also. (Luther). We are no longer under the judgment and condemnation of God, our sins were judged 2,000 years ago on the cross, and confirmed by the resurrection of Christ. He that believeth on him is not condemned (judged): but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn. 3:18). Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life (Jn. 5:24). We will one day stand with confidence before God in the Day of Judgment because of Christ. Our good works will be evidences of saving faith.
- Christ died for sin once for all and we can add nothing. The axe of divine judgment was laid at the root of sin, the world, and Satan. On the cross Satan was judged and his claim on us was broken. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die (Jn. 12:31-33). The cross satisfied the wrath of God and reconciled the world to God. The satisfaction Christ made for sin was applied to us in Holy Baptism. When we were baptized into Christ the guilt and power of sin were broken in our lives. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). Now in Christ sin and death no longer have dominion over us. We still sin, but we are not slaves of sin. We have been pardoned, our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, and the devil can no longer accuse us. When Christ laid down His life on the cross the powers of hell were disarmed and rendered powerless (Col. 2:15). Jesus Christ our conquering Savior made a public spectacle of Satan and all his hosts just as ancient generals would often lead a defeated king through the streets of the city in chains to openly display his shame.
- Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures. John was perplexed. What he was hearing about Jesus just didn’t fit with his thinking. Perhaps you share some of his bewilderment by what you see in the world. When you read about Muslim terrorists gunning down innocent people and cutting people’s heads off over in the Middle East you might ask, where is God? Why doesn’t He do something? Perhaps you are watching a loved one slowly dying before your eyes or seeing friends or family going through a tragedy where it seems like evil is winning. You may wonder if God cares and if He does, is He powerful enough to do something about it. And the problem isn’t just out there for when I look inside my own heart it doesn’t get much better. If we are honest when we look into our heart we see sin and that same old sorry, failing, pathetic excuse for a Christian, with the same weaknesses and confusion we’ve had for years. We may ask, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I live up to my commitments? Why do I fail so often? Like John we are tempted to ask: How long O Lord will I have to wait to see your deliverance and the final judgment against sin? This is one of the oldest questions in the world, how can we explain the existence of evil? It is also a question about the return of Christ when God promises to make everything right once and for all. But waiting for our Lord’s return can be difficult. It was for John the Baptist and it is for us.
- Jesus answered John’s question by quoting the Prophet Isaiah’s description of the Messiah in Is 35:5-6; 61:1. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Jesus was telling John, I understand your confusion because evil seems to be winning and divine judgment seems slow in coming, but that day will come. And you can be sure of God’s judgment because the Word of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness was being fulfilled at that very moment. Jesus said to John: Look at what I am doing? I’m healing the sick the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf and raising the dead, all of the signs that Isaiah said the Messiah would do. The miracles of Jesus were a foretaste of what is waiting for all who place their trust in Christ. Jesus was preaching the Gospel of grace to all who are poor in spirit, to all who recognize their need of a Savior, and believe on Him. His promise is given to people like John the Baptist and to everyone here. If Jesus was really doing the things Isaiah prophesied, then John could be sure He would do everything else the Old Testament had promised. All of the promises about Jesus Christ are going to come to pass and the Word of the Lord would endure for eternity.
- There was a day 2,000 years ago when it seemed as though evil was triumphant, a day when Jesus prayed from the cross: My God my God, why hast Thou forsaken me. It was on this day that Jesus cried out: It is finished. These words revealed our salvation was complete. It was on that dark day the world had the greatest cause for joy for on that day God was saving the world from sin, Satan, and evil, saving us in the only way possible, by the death of His Son. Jesus took our sins and burdens upon Himself, to give us divine comfort, peace, and joy. The death and resurrection of Christ is our strength, comfort, and rejoicing in the perplexities and troubles of life. Christ offers divine rest and forgiveness to us through the promises in His Word and in His Holy Sacrament where we receive His true Body and Blood under the bread and wine for the remission of sins. God has dealt with our sins completely and when we trust in Christ we share in His victory over sin, death, and hell. We look forward to the day of resurrection and eternal life as we live in a world of sorrow and death. Do you see now why the Christian is able to rejoice on this day of joy? Our joy is based on the finished work of Christ for us. He has forgiven our sins and promises to preserve us in the true faith until the end. Christmas is coming soon! The day of Christ’s return is getting nearer every day! For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Rom. 13:11b). Therefore: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Amen.
December 6, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior of the world, meet with us this day in Thy Word.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
- Israel had departed from God’s covenant, and though there were still believers scattered throughout the country, Judaism had morphed into a cult or works righteousness, a religion that honored God outwardly but the hearts of the worshipers were far from God. Not only were the people strangers to God, their religious leaders were corrupt. The Sanhedrin, the highest religious body in the Jewish religion, was in league with the Roman government controlling and fleecing the people. If anyone stepped out of line or challenged their authority they risked being excommunicated from Jewish society or put to death by the Romans. Jesus described the people of Israel as sheep without a shepherd to feed, protect, and lead them (Mt. 9:37-38). In 2017 we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when Martin Luther confronted the power and tyranny of the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire with nothing but the Word of God. Luther called the church of his day to repentance from the false doctrines of indulgences, and Roman Catholic works back to the truth, beauty, and simplicity of the Gospel. Luther’s first Thesis of the 95 Theses summarized his message to the church: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent He intended that the entire life of believers be repentance. The entire Christian life is to be repentance, a turning from sin by faith in Jesus Christ, every day and every moment. Repentance is the Christian’s continual posture before God.
- This was the message of John the Baptist as he preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Lu. 3:3). When people deny the power of Baptism to apply the forgiveness of sins to the hearts and lives of sinners I remind them that even John’s Baptism contained the forgiveness of sin. John was preparing the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus the Messiah by calling them back to God’s Covenant through repentance and Baptism. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The message of repentance from sin and faith in the Gospel was the message of our Lord. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mk 1:14-15). This was also the message of the early church. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:28). The Church of Laodicea thought they were rich and in need of nothing. But Jesus said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked and called them to repent that fellowship could be restored with Him again. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:19-20). Let us examine the doctrine of repentance together.
- The Necessity of Repentance. John was calling Israel to repentance in preparation for Christ’s appearing, and this is the same message the modern church needs to hear. The church in our day needs to repent of doctrinal indifference. It matters what a person believes regardless of how sincere they may be. Many Pastors today do not believe that purity of doctrine is necessary or even possible and so they tolerate false doctrine and error right in their churches. God’s Word can be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit and the key to understanding Scripture is a penitent heart willing to bow before God in His Word. Modern religion needs to repent of a false view of tolerance and love that enables people to continue in sin and still to be Christians. Any supposed Christian love that does not preach God’s Law and the necessity of personal holiness and obedience to God is not love, but hate. It is the devil’s love. Modern churches have been deceived by phony equality, the idea that all religions and cultures are equal. This is the rationale behind our current immigration. People imagine it doesn’t matter who you allow into your country. Since everyone in the world is the same you can replace the American people with Third World Muslims and still have the same country we have always known. Recent events have revealed that Multiculturalism is not only wrong and misguided but also deadly. The job of the state is to protect our citizens from criminals, terrorists, and evil men who would destroy us.
- If we continue down this path, we are going to lose this country. The reason why the church must proclaim God’s Law and show men their true condition is man by nature is a lost and condemned sinner in need of reconciliation, forgiveness, and new life. From birth man is separated from God his heart and mind are blinded to God’s Word and man is dead in trespasses and sins, an enemy of God and His Law (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:7). What is repentance? It is a God given Spirit led change of heart and mind toward God and about sin that turns from sin unto God through faith in Jesus Christ. Repentance involves the reality of sin and the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. If man was without sin he would not need to repent and if God was not gracious toward sinners it would do no good to repent. We are saved by faith in Christ alone but saving faith will always include repentance and a heart of contrition. Faith cannot dwell in a heart that is impenitent. Repentance and faith are gifts from God, man can do nothing to save himself. He cannot make himself repentant nor can he create faith in his own heart. Paul said: The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom. 2:4). When Paul was instructing young Timothy on dealing with difficult and cantankerous church members he advised him not to get into arguments with people who oppose the truth.
- Instead he was to instruct them in meekness in the hope that God will grant them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (II Tim. 2:25). Only God can give us a heart of repentance. True repentance consists of three things. The first is confession of sin. We must see our sins as God has revealed them in His Word. The word confess means to agree with God or say the same thing about our sins that He has said. In the Nicene Creed we confess our faith, we say the same thing God has said in His Word. If we confess our sins, (If we say the same thing about our sins that God has said) he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I Jn. 1:9). The second part of repentance is Contrition. Paul describes contrition as Godly sorrow over sin. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (II Cor. 7:10). In true repentance there is not only a desire to escape the consequences of sin but a resolve and a sincere effort to turn from everything that is displeasing to God. The third part of repentance is conversion. True repentance will turn from sin and seek to amend our sinful life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are inseparable and occur simultaneously in the heart of a sinner when He is saved. You cannot have one without the other. Repentance without faith is nothing more than remorse or regret and faith without repentance makes Christ nothing more than an escape from hell.
- The Evidence of Repentance: When John saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Mt. 3:7-8). John knew these men were not coming to be baptized for forgiveness; they were trusting in their works and in their racial heritage to be right with God. They thought their blood relation to Abraham saved them. John exposed their false thinking: Do not say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Lu. 3:8). God is not deceived about our true sinful condition. True conversion will include a change of heart and life. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Is. 55:7). He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13). This is the message that Paul the Apostle preached to the Gentiles is: that they should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20). Paul said to the Greeks: God commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). The grace of God will change your life and make you a different person, if it does not, you have not received God’s grace.
- True repentance will create a new desire, strength, resolve, and effort to amend our lives and to do good works. The good works God desires are revealed in His Word and are the graces the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and lives as we walk in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22-23). Faith works by love and the love of God is the motivation for all good works. It is our love for Christ that motivates us to serve God by serving our brethren. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (II Cor. 5:14-15). True repentance and the new birth will make us generous with what God has given us. When the people came to John asking how they should live in light of their baptism he replied: He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. When the Lord truly gets hold of someone’s heart he also gets his wallet and checkbook. I’ve never preached a sermon on stewardship and giving in this church because when God’s people are being fed by the Word of God they will be generous, as you have proven over the years. A man once said: you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.
- Jesus said it this way: When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Lu. 14:12-14). True repentance will make you generous. Next the publicans came to ask what they should do and John said: Exact no more than that which is appointed you. Tax collectors in that day were notorious thieves who extorted money from people with the power of the Roman Government behind them and John told them to start being honest. True repentance and faith will make a man honest with God and other people. It will make you a person of integrity, who is reliable, and truthful. People will be able to believe what you say and rely upon the commitments you make. We live in a world of lies and deception where God calls us to be people of truth. Finally the Roman soldiers came to John asking what they should do to show their repentance and he said: Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. John knew that men who exercised the authority of the government, soldiers and policemen in particular, might be tempted to cut corners, to exact their own personal vengeance on criminals or falsely accuse someone of a crime just to solve a case.
- And like most employees, the soldiers were tempted to complain about the money they were paid for doing a distasteful job. John did not tell them to resign from the military he simply told them to do their job as they were trained and be content with the money God had given them. The sins we commit have names. They are the good things we fail to do like helping our neighbor, being kind to the people in our lives, and teaching our children the Bible and they are the bad we should not do, like some of the movies we watch, or when we lie to people, and yell at our family. When we hear the call to repentance we need to get serious about the changes that need to take place in our lives. With the call to prepare the way of the Lord comes the gracious promise: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. That’s where repentance takes us, to the Gospel, to the forgiveness of sins and that’s what Advent is all about. It is receiving the grace of God in Christ knowing that God wants to forgive our sins and help us live a life that will glorify our Savior. Christ came to win our salvation on the cross. The child of Bethlehem came in human flesh as our brother to live the life God wants us to live and to suffer the punishment our sins deserve. This salvation was declared to the world when He rose from the dead. Therefore I urge you to take time during Advent for self-examination asking God for His help in making the changes He wants you to make in honesty and humility for Christ’s sake; Amen.
November 29, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
November 22, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
November 8, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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?
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
November 1, 2015
Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- (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.
- 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.
- (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.