Monthly Archives: March 2014

Fourth Sunday in Lent – John 6:1-15

The words of today’s Collect are stunning. “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul.” One sentence in a prayer accurately describes our relationship with God. One sentence in a prayer accurately summarizes today’s Gospel.

When our feet hit the floor every morning, we don’t usually think that our heavenly Father’s mercies will happen again today. It’s a given. It’s an assumption. God is going to be kind to me today by providing all my needs of body and soul. We don’t even stop to thank Him for His bountiful goodness. When we eat food, we don’t make time to ask God’s blessing over the food we eat. When we finish eating, we don’t return thanks to God for His merciful provision. Every breath, every step, every blink of an eye is a blessing from God. Yet we don’t care. We’ve come to expect it from the God Whom we treat like a servant rather than our merciful Master.

We are like Andrew, who approaches Jesus with a young boy that has five barley loaves and two small fish. What are they for so many? There’s a lot of Andrew in all of us, especially when it comes to what Jesus is able to do for us. We confess our sins each week before this altar, but the thought just might enter our head, what are they for so many? We aren’t quite sure Jesus will forgive all our sins. There’s too many of them. He’s probably tired of hearing our confession. It’s the same old thing every week. I’m a poor, miserable sinner. I deserve everlasting death. I am sorry for committing them. I trust in Your blood and righteousness, O Lord. Yet what are they for so many?

We deserve only punishment not only for our sin, but also for our reckless lack of trust in Jesus Christ to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Consider the promises in the Old Testament reading from Isaiah’s mouth: In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…. They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. Isaiah is not only talking about those who hear His words, he is also talking about you. These are God’s promises here, and they are for you, even when you don’t believe God will deliver on what He promises.

Consider also that these promises are not merely for food, drink, and shelter from wind and sun. There’s another reality at play here in Isaiah’s words inspired by the Holy Spirit. Isaiah is talking about your future in Jesus Christ. Isaiah is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. This is your reality in Jesus Christ. This is what you have to look forward to in the resurrection. Just as Jesus provides food for 5,000 men in the wilderness who have heard His preaching, so He also provides for you not only everything you need for each day, but also your everything you need for eternal life.

The food you crave is more than a ten sack of White Castle sliders. You crave justice. You crave peace with God. Peace with God and justice is yours in Jesus Christ. As Isaiah says, the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. That’s future perfect tense there. Future perfect is used to describe an event that is expected or planned to happen before a time of reference in the future. The event is your salvation. Salvation has been promised before it happened.

The Father’s compassion on you happened when He promised the Seed of the woman will stomp the head of the serpent. The future event is about to happen again when we hear Jesus’ death for our sins on the cross. God’s standard default relationship to His children is mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and steadfast love. Comfort has come. Comfort has already happened. So has compassion. But that compassion becomes flesh in order to live a perfect live and suffer the perfect death for you. That compassion rises from the dead to declare you innocent before the Father in heaven. That resurrection compassion is your hope for your resurrection, your future glory in Christ Jesus.

When the people saw the sing that Jesus had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” The thing about that sentence is that many of the same people who said it would later turn their back on the Prophet who is to come into the world. They could not deal with His hard sayings and the fact that He is not an earthly king who demands an earthly throne. The throne set before the Savior is two beams of wood joined together for Him to lie on in order to suffer and die for the sin of the world. This is the mercy that is new to us every morning.

Jesus is our priceless treasure. He sets before you again today His Supper for you to eat and drink His Body and Blood for your forgiveness. You don’t have to grasp for air in order to receive His compassion. All you do is open your mouth and receive what He gives to you, just as baby robins do when they receive good things from their mother and father.

What are they for so many? They are a merciful gift from your heavenly Father, Who gives you everything you need to support this body and life. As we sang in the Chief Hymn: “Yea, whate’er I here must bear, Thou art still my purest pleasure, Jesus, priceless treasure!”

Gerhard: Forgiveness and Daily Bread

In the “our Father” [the Lord’s Prayer], we not only pray for the forgiveness of sins, but also for daily bread and food. Thus, we confess with this that we cannot only  not make payment for our sin before God the Lord, but that we are also unable to earn our daily bread. Instead, we have to beg and petition God’s mercy for both the forgiveness of sins and daily bread. We find such grace and mercy from God only in and through Christ. So then, just as we ask for and obtain forgiveness of sins through Christ, so also we obtain our daily bread and food through him.

– Johann Gerhard, Postil for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Confusion of Law and Gospel Equals A Christless Christianity

If I were to say to you, “What are the principal sources of the abuses which corrupt Christianity”, what would you say? Teenagers having sex? Our not standing up for what’s right? What would you say?…

Nine and a half out of ten people would say something behavioral. “I’ll tell you what corrupts Christianity. We’re just not walking the walk now. We’re talking the talk, but we’re not walking the walk. What really needs to happen, if Christianity is going to become credible again, we have to be the smartest ones in the public square. That’s what needs to happen. And, you know what, we’re just sittin’ around in our little holy teepees and we’re not actually engaging the world. We need to engage the world. That’s the principle abuse. We’re all cloistered up in our own little holy huddles.”

What would you say?

[Theodore] Beza said that the principal source which fuels the abuses that corrupt Christianity is the ignorance of the distinction between Law and Gospel; confusing God’s speech. The failure to distinguish the Law and the Gospel always means the abandonment of the Gospel. That’s why it’s so dangerous. A confusion of Law and Gospel is the main contributor to Christless Christianity, or moralism. When you confuse the Law and the Gospel it contributes mightily to Christless Christianity because the Law gets softened into how to have a better marriage, that’s what’s heard, how to have a better marriage or how to raise better kids or helpful tips for practical living or applying timeless truths to your life so that you can have whatever it is that you need and crave that…that’s what happens, a confusion of Law and Gospel contributes to moralism because the Law gets softened into those things instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection….

– Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian

Be Perfect. I Can’t Be. I Know. Jesus Was.

It’s not my job on Sunday morning, or the job or responsibility of any preacher on Sunday mornings, to stand up and give you a checklist for how you can have your best life now…that is not the job. It is to announce God’s two words. It’s to basically say “Be perfect. I can’t be. I know. Jesus was.” Every sermon! Every sermon…. Where else are you going to hear that?… And because that’s not happening every week, the Church is in trouble.

Because it’s become sort-of self-help time on Sunday morning. Just give me helpful tips for practical living with a twist of Jesus on it. And the twist of Jesus usually happens in the form of singing before the motivational speaker gets up and says, “Here are the things you should do in order to impress God and others, in order to feel good about yourself.” As if that’s the goal.

The first word of God is intended to make us feel bad about our self. God’s intention on Sunday morning is to kill you and make you alive, over and over and over again. And so when we fail to distinguish Law and Gospel, the Law gets softened into helpful tips for practical living instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection, and at the same time, the Gospel gets hardened into a set of moral demands that we must live out instead of God’s unconditional declaration that He justifies the ungodly. That’s the Gospel. The Law demands everything but gives nothing. The Gospel demands nothing but gives everything. That’s how God’s two words work together.

Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian

Watch the sermon here.

Tullian

We Sinners Need A Savior

Good stuff here. This should not just be a Lententide thing. This should be an every Sunday thing.

1. Jesus is a Savior of their souls

a. [John 6:1-15] testifies to [Jesus] as the Savior of souls. For according to the account of Matthew and Mark Christ withdrew with His disciples into the wilderness in order to rest. But when He saw the crowds streaming out from the mountain, He had compassion toward their spiritual need; because they were like sheep that have no shepherd, and He began a long sermon. What else will have been the content of His preaching than the sweet Gospel, that He had come to seek the lost, to save sinners? He will have preached to the languishing ones under the curse of the Law that they should find rest for their souls in Him, that He is the true Shepherd Who now wants to attend to His flock Himself. This comforting Gospel led the publicans and sinners for to him that Mary Magdalene at his feet, Zaccheus in the mulberry tree, only in order to have at least his comforting perspective, led a great part of the people to Him in the wilderness;

b. the entire Old Testament testifies to Him as the Savior of souls; even the first promise about Him in Genesis 3:15, that He crushes the serpent’s head, i.e. would destroy the devil’s kingdom and works and redeem souls from it; therefore he is called Abraham’s blessing because he takes the curse from sinners, and should make them again to the blessed ones of His Father; that is why Isaiah rejoices: “To us a Child is born” etc.;

c. His life and His innocent death testifies to Him as the Savior of souls; because by his holy life He has fulfilled the Law for us and acquired righteousness that avails before God; through suffering and death He has expiated and taken away sin, guilt and punishment. That is why He sealed the word: “It is accomplished!” with His glorious resurrection and ascension, as well as through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit and establishing His Church in the entire world; for what else is the same but the community of those who are brought by faith in Him from the devil’s kingdom into God’s kingdom, become pardoned, blessed children of God and heirs of eternal life?

Who is there now among us, who recognizes himself as a forlorn sinner, who would not take his refuge in this Savior? Once He redeems them, He calls them all to Himself, without distinction, young and old sinners, great and small, honest and immoral, a pious John on His breast and a thief on the cross to His right, a denying Peter and a bloodthirsty Saul. All who ever came to him, He has gathered as the true Savior, all gratefully boast: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Why will you not come to Him? As in no one else – salvation and blessedness is certain in Him for everyone.

– Part of a sermon outline for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (John 6:1-15) by Otto Hanser from 1885. Translated by DMJ

Luther: Sin Is Swallowed Up by Christ’s Resurrection

You cast your sins from yourself and onto Christ when you firmly believe that his wounds and sufferings are your sins, to be borne and paid for by him, as we read in Isaiah 53:6 , “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” St. Peter says, “in his body has he borne our sins on the wood of the cross” [1 Peter 2:24]. St. Paul says, “God has made him a sinner for us, so that through him we would be made just” [2 Corinthians 5:21]. You must stake everything on these and similar verses. The more your conscience torments you, the more tenaciously must you cling to them. If you do not do that, but presume to still your conscience with your contrition and penance, you will never obtain peace of mind, but will have to despair in the end. If we allow sin to remain in our conscience and try to deal with it there, or if we look at sin in our heart, it will be much too strong for us and will live on forever. But if we behold it resting on Christ and [see it] overcome by his resurrection, and then boldly believe this, even it is dead and nullified. Sin cannot remain on Christ, since it is swallowed up by his resurrection.

“A Meditation on Christ’s Passion”, Luther’s Works, Volume 42, page 12

Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 11:14-28

Does the devil exist? One look at the recent exorcism in northwest Indiana confirms that the devil does exist. Yet you don’t have to be an internet troll spewing filth about believing in God and Satan to deny that the devil exists. All you have to do is make fun of the Christian faith, mock the doctrines of the Trinity, of Christ’s birth, of Baptism, and of the Lord’s Supper. There are even those who believe in the Bible and in some sort of personal deity, yet deny the existence of a personal devil.

The devil himself is the cause of unbelief. He retains terrible and undisturbed power over people in such a way that he brings unbelief into their heart. An unknown enemy is the most dangerous enemy. Jesus Christ knows this enemy well. Two weeks ago, we heard Him fight back Satan’s temptations with the Word of God. This week Jesus casts out a demon and must deal with those of His own kinsmen who say He casts out demons by the prince of demons. What they don’t believe, and what we see today, is Jesus Christ has come to destroy the kingdom of the devil.

It’s good to remind ourselves about demons and the prince of demons, Satan himself. These are spirits created by God but voluntarily fallen from God and rejected by Him. Jesus says in John chapter eight about the Jews who despise Him: You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Saint Peter writes that God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.

Demons have retained their strength and speed from when they were angels of light. Jesus calls Satan the strong man. Their number is large, for Jesus asked a demon that possessed a man what its name was. The demon replied, My name is Legion, for we are many. There is a master of demons often called “Satan” or “the devil” or even “Beelzebub”, a name meaning “lord of the flies”.

Satan’s kingdom was founded by seduction of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The devil became a lord and prince of this world through sin. All mankind are subjects of his kingdom. If God had allowed His Kingdom set up after the fall by His Son, then there would only be a kingdom of the devil on earth. We see the devil’s kingdom among those who do not have the Gospel of Christ, such as Islam and Judaism. The devil’s kingdom is also present among unbelievers in Christ, whether subtle or blatant unbelievers. The tares among the wheat in the Christian Church also give evidence of the devil’s kingdom, as do blasphemers and skeptics.

It’s easy to find yourself in this kingdom. Every denial of the Christian faith you give in word or deed shows what kingdom is yours. Every time you bow the knee to sin, whether in secret or in public, gives testimony to God and to your neighbor that you would rather have the strong man in your house than the Stronger Man and His kingdom of power, grace, and glory. When you strive after earthly ambitions to hold your authority over others, when you live like a hypocrite, when you set up another god as your God, there is your kingdom. In short, where any sin reigns in you, there the devil has pitched his tent; there you stand side-by-side with Satan. Saint John puts it this way: Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

There is no barrier, no fortified dwelling, that the Stronger Man cannot destroy. Jesus Christ, the Stronger Man, has come to destroy the devil, his helpers, and his kingdom among mankind. The Incarnate Son of God is the only One able to overcome the strong men of the devil. Jesus alone paid for your sin, your guilt, and your punishment through which Satan had obtained power and rights over God’s people. Saint John also says, The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus Christ alone works redemption through His suffering, death, and resurrection. These unexpected ways of victory, for the world and the devil expect an earthly King with earthly powers, destroy death and open the gates of Paradise to all who believe in the Stronger Man sent from the everlasting Father.

The worn-out saying is “To the victor go the spoils”. This means the winner of a conflict wins additional benefits beyond the subject of the conflict. Jesus does not hog the spoils of His victory over sin, death, and hell. He delivers His spoils of victory to you, for His victory is your victory through faith in Jesus Christ. The spoils of victory are the Gifts Jesus gives to His Church: the preaching of His Word of forgiveness and resurrection, the water of Baptism that cleanses you from all sin and puts you in His Kingdom, the Absolution that declares your sins forgiven, and the Supper that puts His Body and Blood in your mouth for the forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation. Through these Gifts, the Holy Spirit works powerfully among you to strengthen and preserve you in the Holy Christian Church to everlasting life.

Jesus Christ has entered the strong man’s dwelling and captured you from his hands. Saint Paul says it this way to the Colossian Christians: [The Father] has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. You have an inheritance more precious than gold and silver. You have everlasting life. You have forgiveness of sins. You have a future because Jesus Christ gives you that future in His destruction of Satan through His innocent suffering and death on your behalf. Believe it for His sake.

An Answer to A Question

A question that I as a pastor hear many times is, “Why are all churches struggling right now?” or, “Why is my church dying out?”

Here is an answer. Not necessarily THE answer, but an answer.

As [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:3-14 ESV).

First Sunday in Lent – Matthew 4:1-11

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

First Kings Chapter 13 tells us about a man of God who was sent by the Lord to Bethel in order to testify against the idolatrous altar erected by King Jeroboam of Israel. Jeroboam’s hand suddenly miraculously withered after he demanded the man of God be seized for prophesying against his house. Jeroboam repented, albeit falsely, and the hand returned to normal. King Jeroboam then said to the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward. And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.'”

Nevertheless, the evil enemy managed to confuse the man of God and to bring disobedience against God’s Word. And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. So it goes today for those who do not remain with the Word of the Lord. They also are torn apart, but not by a lion. They are instead a prey of unbelief or despair and receive a bad end when they succumb to them.

We avoid this tragedy by clinging to the Word of God  as our Lord Jesus did in His wilderness temptation. His weapon, our weapon, is three words: It is written.

God does allow us sometimes to fall into earthly trouble. Satan uses these times of distress in order to cut us down. He has willing accomplices. Consider Job’s wife’s response to all the calamities that befell him. Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die. Telling God to go pound sand is an easy thing to do. No more folding hands. No more earnest sighs of prayer. Just tell Him, “You lost me.” The devil loves it when you despise preaching and the Word of God. He leaps for joy when you despise your Baptism and neglect to receive Holy Communion. You make fast friends with the world when you turn your back on God and consider the Christian faith a mental illness or a club whose president seems not to want you as a member.

The way to deal with temptation is to wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Job responded to his wife, Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? It is also written, Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” It is written, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. It is written, It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. It is written, Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Don’t forget that even Satan knows the Word of God. He knows how to manipulate it. So do unbelievers and false Christians. You will be surprised at how many people who will not confess Jesus as Lord know their Bible. They may know the Bible better than you do. We often hear well-meaning “spiritual” people say, “Every faith saves. All religions are the same. We all believe in the same god, no matter what religion you believe. It’s OK to borrow a little from Buddha and a little from Christ.” Even we Christians fall prey to this mess by pushing away the clear Word of Scripture and instead use our reason to rule over the Word.

Our response remains the same: Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” In other words, hold Scripture against Scripture. Use the Word of God to interpret the Word of God instead of your reason.

One way Christians mangle God’s Word is by not properly distinguishing Law and Gospel. For example, Roman Catholics believe Jesus is a new judge and lawgiver, quoting John chapter nine: For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind. On the other hand, Jesus says six chapters earlier: God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Methodists say man must struggle to obtain God’s grace through praying, sighing, and wrestling. They quote Philippians chapter two: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. But they forget to use the next verse, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The temptations of the world and its glory are great. Young people strive after worldly pleasure, while seasoned citizens strive after worldly treasure. The answer to both temptations remains, Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” It is written, My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. It is written, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. It is written, Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. It is written, Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. It is written, Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

But what about Ecclesiastes chapter eleven: Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. How quickly we forget the second half of this passage: But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Or what about this one from Proverbs: Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. The answer is also from Proverbs, Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Holy Scripture is the sword of the Spirit. We Christians practice swordsmanship, a defensive strategy against the offense of Satan, the world, and our own sinful nature. We also receive good things from God in hearing His Gospel, rejoicing in our Baptism, and eating and drinking His Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. Christ’s Gifts in God’s Service to us is our offense, for these Gifts nourish us to play defense against our enemies. The battle cry remains, It is written. This is our slingshot of David, so that we work in the Name of the Lord against the Goliath that is Satan and all our enemies. One little stone, one little pebble from the Word of God, can fell him.

It is written: “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Now has Christ conquered Satan for you. Where you fall, Christ stands firm. Where you forget how to respond to temptation, Christ, the Living Word of God, knows what to say.

These [words] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. So it is written, so it is accomplished for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Walther on How to Receive the Benefits of Christ’s Temptation

Now, my friends, if you want to be eternally blessed by the battle of your Savior, your heavenly General, nothing more is demanded of you and all men than that you play the part of a believing spectator. The important thing is not that you learn how to fight against sin and Satan from Christ’s example, but the first, the most important, the main thing is that you learn to believe that Christ battled for you, in your place, for your freedom and salvation. Whoever knows and feels his sins, whoever knows that hitherto he has served the devil, that he was full of unbelief, contempt of Gods’ Word, pride, vanity, lust, and love of the world, or that he at least has not really battled against the world, flesh, and Satan, let him merely look to his Savior. This Champion from the stem of David has held the field for us. This Lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered for us. Though you may have fallen ever so deeply, though you may have even begged the devil’s pardon, free yourself from this disgraceful tyranny. Side with Christ; then you are victor over sin and hell. Then Christ also divides the spoils of war with you – forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life, and salvation.

– C.F.W. Walther, “Gospel Sermons” Volume One, page 162