Home > Martyria, Sermons, The Holy Cross > Fragments of Sermon, Wednesday after Reminiscere (2012)

Fragments of Sermon, Wednesday after Reminiscere (2012)

Wednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Philippians 3:17-4:1

March 7, 2012

Martyria: Our Great High Priest’s Mission

“Witnesses and Enemies of the Cross within the Church”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

  1. Introduction
  2. True Christian walk
  3. False Christian walk
  4. Self-examination

2.  “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us,” Paul writes (Philippians 3:17).  That is a bold thing for St. Paul to say, isn’t it?  “Imitate me, and follow the examples of those who follow my example.”

What does this tell us?  It tells us that it is possible to walk as a Christian.  It tells us that it is possible to know that one walks as a Christian ought to walk.  It tells us that the life of a Christian ought to bear witness to Jesus Christ without the Christian saying a word.

One time I debated at length with a Lutheran layman about why Lutherans appear to be unsuccessful at evangelism and how that could be remedied.  The man insisted, “If we aren’t willing to change the way we do church, we simply don’t care about whether unbelievers hear the Gospel.  It is necessary for us to have the type of music people can relate to to draw them to hear the Gospel.  The Sunday worship service has to attract people so they can hear the Gospel and be saved.”

Really?  Is there an example—even one example—of the Bible saying that what should attract unbelievers to hear God’s Word is the attractiveness of the worship service?

There isn’t.  If someone can find a single example of that in Scripture, I would like to see it.  You will see the attractions of pagan styles of worship seducing God’s people into idolatry and God’s wrath.  But what the New Testament repeatedly emphasizes is that the Christian’s life is the most powerful witness to Christ; that is because Christ lives in Christians.  And just as He loved His enemies and faithfully bore witness to the truth, even when He suffered, so Christ continues to do in His Christians.  He bears witness in us as we, following our master, serve rather than demanding to be served—as we give up our rights as God’s heirs and make ourselves least, slaves of one another in the Church, servants of those who do not believe.  For instance: St. Peter writes: Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.  (3:1-2)  And Jesus said, “If I, then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”  (St. John 13:14-16)  Jesus is saying, “Am I your Lord?  Not your servant, but your master and teacher?  If so, then you are to follow my example and wash each other’s feet—that is, humble yourselves and serve one another.”

This is what Paul is talking about when he says, “Follow my example.”  In Philippians Paul has just gotten through talking about how he has gotten rid of all the things in his flesh that he trusted in before.  In Judaism, Paul had every reason for confidence.  He was born of the right tribe, he was circumcised correctly, and he was strict about observing traditions and commandments that were practiced by the Pharisees.

But now, says Paul, I count all of that to be dung.  Anything in me that I could brag about I have thrown away, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

If we have anything in us in which to be confident or boast, then we can relax and be secure.  And this is what human beings want in the flesh.  We want to be able to take it easy, enjoy life.  And if anything goes wrong, we want to believe that either it’s someone else’s fault, or else we just need to make some minor adjustments in the way we’ve been doing things.

But Paul lost all that confidence when he became a Christian.  There he was, righteously pursuing the Christians to silence their heresies, trying with all of his zeal to please God.  And in the middle of this, Jesus appeared, blinding him.  Jesus said, “All of your righteousness amounts to this, Paul—you are persecuting the Son of God.  You are trying to crucify me again by attacking my Church.”

So it is with a true Christian life.  Everything we have in the flesh amounts to excrement.  The Law reveals to us that unless we change we will be damned with all our righteousness.  So in terror we flee from our sins and wish to live in them no more.  Jesus says, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”  And then with that same terror of sin, but also with increasing faith and love toward Christ, we follow Him in the way of the cross, which is the way in which we lose all the things that the flesh loves—honor, pride, self-confidence.

Paul was willing to endure beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, mockery, opposition from false Christians.  Why?  Because his eyes were fixed on Christ’s promise.  Those who share my sufferings will also share in my glory.  Because Paul’s eyes were fixed on the inheritance Christ won for him and for us by His death and resurrection, he did not look at things like the world does.  He looked at Christ raised from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, coming in glory on the last day, and saw that Jesus in His glory is the same Jesus who suffered and was cast out and hated.

That is the Jesus with whom we were crucified and buried in Baptism, and also resurrected to live a new life.  So to follow Christ, to follow St. Paul’s example, is this—moment by moment we forget all that is behind us and we go forth to live a new life in Christ, pressing forward to take hold of the glory that has been promised us.

We live not to get rich or to have an easy life; we live to have Jesus.  That means we live fearing the sin that lives in us.  It cost Jesus His blood and the wrath of God; it cost Jesus the shame of the cross, the spit, the slaps, the betrayal of Judas.  And we want to willingly live in it?  It can’t be.  Christians daily run away from all sin and do not willingly live in it.  If there is some part of your life that you know is displeasing to God and you are hanging on to it, repent!  Deny yourself, take up the cross.

To have Jesus means to follow Him.  This does not mean we are not forgiven when we fall.  It means that we do not consciously rebel against Him.  And when we see our sins and weaknesses we run to Him for forgiveness and deliverance.  That is why Luther still went to confession and humbled himself till he died.  That is what ought to drive us to the Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood—that we desire His help to forgive our sins, to enable us to overcome them, to keep us safe against Satan who seeks to destroy us.

We follow Christ, finally, by serving and loving our neighbor just as Christ served us.  Is a master greater than his servant?  Of course.  And yet our master scrubbed the feet of His disciples.  He became the sin offering, the scapegoat, the castaway, for His creatures.  He bore the wrath of God and the shame of the cross for us.  So we cannot willfully refuse to serve our neighbor.

But neither did Paul allow his failings in following Christ to make him despair.  “Forgetting what is behind, I press on…”  The Christian life means this—we do not try to atone for our own sins.  If I fall into sin, I repent.  I climb back into the boat of Baptism, and get busy following after Christ, trusting in the blood that He shed for me.


Wednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Philippians 3:17-4:1

March 7, 2012

Martyria: Our Great High Priest’s Mission

“Witnesses and Enemies of the Cross within the Church”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

  1.  Jesus, our great High Priest, is also a martyr, or a witness, to the world.  He bears witness that

the Father is reconciled to the world through Jesus’ suffering, and that He no longer counts our sins against us.  He bears witness to the truthfulness of God against the lies of the devil; the devil claims that the way to peace and joy is through sin, through accepting Satan’s reign.  Satan’s domination of human beings makes us slaves to sin; either we openly live in sin, consciously and willfully breaking God’s law, or we become self-righteous and arrogant, believing that our efforts to contain our sinful nature make us righteous in God’s sight.  In both cases the devil deceives and controls people.  But by His death and resurrection Jesus bears witness that God forgives sin and at the same time makes us free from slavery and bondage to sin and the devil.

Jesus bore witness in His earthly ministry—He bore witness to the utter sinfulness of human beings, our lack of excuses, and God’s certain judgment.  He also bore witness to God’s righteousness—that is, the righteousness that God counts or reckons to the ungodly and to sinners.

[Before His arrest in Gethsemane Jesus warned His disciples: If you were of the world, the world would love [you as] its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin…But when the Comforter comes…the Spirit of truth…He will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.  (John 15:19, 22, 26-27)  Jesus bore witness to God’s unrelenting judgment and to His righteousness.  He is the righteousness of God, the only Savior.  Why was He hated then?  Because those who receive Him and believe in Him belong to Him and follow Him; they become witnesses together with Him.  And this means that they walk after Him, in His way—and this means that Jesus’ true disciples also bear the cross.  They suffer and they are hated by the world just as Jesus was hated by the world.]

[When Jesus speaks to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation, the last church He addresses is one that is apostate or nearly so.  It is lukewarm, and the people in it say, “I am rich; I have everything I need.”  Jesus says to them, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth; you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  And at the beginning of the letter to this church, Jesus is called “the faithful witness.” (Revelation 3:14)]

Jesus’ witness to the world concerns God’s judgment and His righteousness.  Having ascended to the Father’s right hand, He now bears witness through His royal priesthood, the Church—through her preaching and the testimony of her members, but also through her life.  Christians may not bear witness to Jesus only in words, but also in deeds—by a life that is not focused on earthly comfort but on the promised inheritance in heaven.  By a life that is lived carefully with a desire to glorify God and adorn the Gospel, so that people in the world glorify God for the good deeds of Jesus’ witnesses.  If you are a Christian, you must follow Jesus; faith in Jesus that does not daily run away from the desires of the flesh to follow Jesus in the way of the cross is not saving faith; it is faith without repentance.

The church, as we see it in the world, is mixed.  It has believers and unbelievers, true Christians and hypocrites, and not all of the hypocrites are evident by an openly unrepentant life.  Only God can see who has true faith in Christ and who doesn’t.  But in the passion reading we see how the disciples that Jesus called have become “enemies of the cross” or at the very least are drifting from the cross and therefore from Jesus.  And Paul warns the Philippians that there are many who bear the name Christian who are “enemies of the cross”, whose lives do not bear witness to Christ, but rather to the idolatry by which they worship the pleasures of this world.  So Paul exhorts the Philippians to follow his example—and also us.

May God help us meditate with repentance on 1. the walk of a witness of Christ and 2. the walk of enemies of the cross, and may He grant us neither to be hard-hearted and self-righteous, nor to despair, but daily to take up our cross, to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and find comfort in His obedience when our weakness and sin overwhelms us.

True Christian walk: Jesus, Paul

Paul; not confident in the flesh.

The flesh would give him reason to take his ease: he was a good Jew.

But now all of that is garbage:

Not a righteousness of his own, coming from the Law, but that which is by faith in Jesus Christ; the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, sharing His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death—that I may obtain the resurrection of the dead.

I have not already attained this, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.

Paul’s focus is on eternal life, and so he has no relaxation in His flesh but lives each moment by faith in Jesus.  And he forgets what is behind and presses on toward that which is ahead. (Good and bad that is behind is forgotten)

(This is what leads us to confession and the sacrament of the altar—how often we see that we do not want to leave the comforts of the flesh.)

The pantocrator will raise up our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to bring all things into submission to Himself.

Stand fast in the Lord.

Enemies of the Cross.

By contrast—their end is destruction (not resurrection and glorification),

Their god is their stomach (not Jesus Christ),

Their glory is in their shame (instead of the cross)

Their mind is on earthly things.

They do not act like their citizenship is in heaven.

Works righteousness, pursuit of mammon…it’s all the same thing.

Hatred of the cross; hatred of suffering.

Peter—he left everything, but then expected a reward and glory on earth, and fell, could not suffer.  He also trusted in his own strength.

Judas—he was among the disciples, but betrayed Jesus because he trusted/loved money.  Under the cloak of piety.

Paul weeps over this, because our lives either bear witness or deny the witness of Christ and the cross.



Where is there enmity against the cross in me?

How have I trusted in my own righteousness?

How have I tried to walk an easy path with no cross?

How has this led me to deny Christ?

Examples to follow:


Paul (repentance)—he had a lot to be sorry of, and a lot to lose by becoming a Christian.

Peter (repentance)—how could he be forgiven after a denial of Christ at the cross?  Clearly it was impossible for him to live as a Christian.

So it is with us.


God’s Word

Daily repentance—daily running away from the world to pick up cross.

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