Home > Trinity 16-End of Church Year > God’s Thoughts. Trinity 20, 2015

God’s Thoughts. Trinity 20, 2015


20th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Isaiah 55:1-9

October 11, 2015

“God’s Thoughts—Divine Service, Scripture, Prayer”

Iesu Iuva

Seek the Lord while He may be found;

Call upon Him while He is near;

Let the wicked forsake his way,

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him,

And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Is. 55:6-7

 

From these verses you can see why it is so difficult for the wicked man to return to the Lord. “Let the wicked forsake his way.” That means that a sinner must give up the course he is on; he must turn and walk on a new road, the way of righteousness. Instead of lying he must learn to tell the truth; instead of hatred and anger he must learn love and forgiveness; instead of cheating and stealing he must learn to give. Instead of seeking his own good and honor he must learn to seek the glory and honor of God and the good of his neighbor. It’s hard for the wicked to forsake his way and walk in the way of the Lord. Even if it was just a matter of changing his outward behavior it would be hard.

But it isn’t just a matter of changing behavior. The Holy Spirit goes further: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” To return to the Lord, the wicked person not only has to forsake his way of life, but his thinking. He has to have a new mind. The mind and heart of the wicked is the source of his evil manner of living, because the wicked man does not seek the glory and honor of God but his own self. He seeks his own happiness and pleasure and not the glory of God and the well-being of his neighbor. That is what God saw about human beings a long time ago, before He flooded the earth to destroy wicked men: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5)

 

The description of the wicked man’s thinking strikes home with you, doesn’t it? The wicked man thinks about himself—how he can be happy and have what he wants—and not about the glory of God or our neighbor’s needs. Does that mean you are wicked and unrighteous if you are self-seeking? Yes. It means that you have an unrighteous and wicked nature. You must forsake that nature if you want to be saved.

But who can forsake his own nature? Who can change his way of thinking, so that he goes from seeking himself to seeking the glory of God and the good of his neighbor? People spend millions on therapists trying to get help to change their thinking in earthly things, but we are supposed to forsake our selfish way of thinking and become concerned only with glorifying God? How are we supposed to do that?

It is impossible. It is like asking the dead to raise themselves or asking the leopard to change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23). That’s why Jesus, when His disciples asked Him, “Who then can be saved?” said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) God must miraculously “change our minds”; He must give us the miraculous gift of repentance, so that we become like little children, forsake our thoughts, and “trust in the Lord with all (our) hearts, and do not lean on (our) own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

How does God do that?

Have you ever noticed that in seeking our own happiness first we seldom become happy? And even when we do find happiness it only lasts as long as circumstances favor us. When we put our trust in earthly things and seek our happiness in them, our happiness vanishes as soon as the earthly things are taken away, whether those things are wealth, honor, health, or love. Earthly things can’t satisfy us and give our souls what they really need. So God asks us, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Is. 55:2) Our fallen minds think that we will be satisfied if we could just have one more thing, and so we work to get that one thing more. But we remain unsatisfied, empty.

“Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (verse 2). We find what satisfies, what enables us to forsake our futile, self-seeking thoughts, in “listening diligently” to the Lord. The words of the Bible, of Holy Scripture, are not the thoughts of men but the thoughts of God. They are the thoughts of the eternal God, the creator of heaven and earth. So they are higher than our thoughts, as the heavens are higher than the earth.

In His Word God makes an everlasting covenant with us. When we follow the thoughts of our unrighteous hearts, there is nothing sure, certain, or everlasting about our happiness. Everything is uncertain and temporary. “If I perform well enough I will get what I want, or at least some of what I want,” we think. But in His Word God is freely pledging His steadfast, sure love forever. He promised David that unchanging love despite David’s sins. He promised that one of David’s offspring would reign as king forever and ever, and that David’s royal line would be established forever. God would not take away the kingship from David and his descendants because of their sin, like He did Sau. His love toward David would be steadfast and sure forever. That same steadfast love God promises to us in His Word.

He fulfilled His promise to David when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. He sent Jesus to reign on David’s throne forever. Jesus didn’t come as an earthly lord and king but as King and Lord over sin, death, and the devil for us. He came and atoned for David’s sin by His suffering and dying. He won God’s steadfast, sure, and unchanging love for David because He atoned for David’s sin. And what Jesus did for David He did for you. He atoned for your self-seeking and your love of yourself more than God. As a result God’s unchanging, unwavering, certain love is for you as it was for David.

This is the thought of God’s heart that He makes known to us in the Scriptures and the preaching of the Word. By revealing this thought of His heart to us He enables us to forsake our own thoughts and return to Him. Through communicating His thoughts to us He “renews our minds” (Romans 12:2) so that we forsake our self-seeking, sinful thoughts and “return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on us, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7)

 

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. Our thoughts are self-seeking by nature and our ways are crooked as we go through the world trying to make things go the way we want. God’s ways are holy and pure, with no unrighteousness in them. His thoughts are not lies and self-seeking but truth and righteousness. And yet God plans not for our just punishment, but for our pardon. He bears the penalty for our self-seeking Himself, atoning for our sins through Jesus’ innocent suffering and death.

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” This is why the first two things in our fall series after Christ are the Divine Service and Scripture. In the Divine Service we receive God’s Word. He puts His thoughts into our ears. He provides the bread and wine that satisfy us and make our souls live—the body and blood of Jesus. Receiving His Word and Sacrament in faith, we forsake our own thoughts and return to the Lord, who pardons us and delights us with rich food. In reading the Scripture with our families and in private we practice “listening diligently” to God that we may eat what satisfies.

Our hearts are by nature self-seeking and wicked, but we receive the Lord’s thoughts, the mind of Christ, in the Divine Service and in study of the Scriptures. There He reveals His thoughts toward us—to give us steadfast, sure love through His Son’s suffering in our place. If only we listened diligently to the Lord! If only the majority of the members of St. Peter came to the Divine Service not once every couple of months or every other week, but every time the Lord gathers us! If only those who were here every week also diligently listened to the Lord when the Scriptures are opened in Bible Class! If only those who came to Bible Class were opening the Scriptures every day in their homes, with their families and alone! Why do I wish that? So we can be extra-holy, self-righteous people? No, but because in the Word which is given in the Divine Service and in the Scriptures the Lord promises to satisfy our souls and renew our minds. He promises to renew our minds there, and where individually our minds are renewed, the Church is renewed. Then we would not only find satisfaction for ourselves, but others would come to us to receive the Lord’s thoughts.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,

Come to the waters,

And he who has no money,

Come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

Without money and without price.”

 

Let everyone who is hungry and thirsty at St. Peter come to the Divine Service, open the Scriptures together and at home, and diligently listen to God in His Word. He will not fail to satisfy your hunger and thirst.

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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