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He Will Convict the World. Cantate, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2018.

peter preachingCantate, The Fifth Sunday of Easter

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 16:5-15

April 28, 2018

He Will Convict the World

Iesu Iuva

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Last week Pastor Chehab preached to us, and many of you were excited by his message.  Which is good.  It should be exciting to us to hear how the power of God rescued a man who did not know Jesus Christ from the worship of an idol, from the everlasting darkness that is the only future for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ.

 

There was another message in Pastor Chehab’s sermon too, though, for those with ears to hear.

 

He told about how in 20 years growing up in Lebanon, which he said was 50 percent Christian then, he had never heard the Gospel.  In his experience the Lebanese Christians had mostly kept Jesus locked up in their families and churches, as though He belonged to them only.

 

What a terrible indictment of the church in Lebanon when he was growing up there, don’t you think?  I think of myself with this: how sorry I would feel in front of my Lord, if someone were to say to Him about me, “I never heard Him talk about you, Jesus.  I never got the sense that Karl wanted to talk to me about You.”  I would grieve if that is the impression people got about Jesus from me: that they never sensed the greatness of His love for them, the joy of His salvation, the freedom He gives through freely giving Himself to pay for our sins.

 

Yet I have no doubt that there are people who would say this about me—that I was content to keep Jesus as though he were only for me and people like me, instead of the one who gave Himself for all people.

 

It would also cause me pain if people were to say about the congregation that I pastor, “They don’t really care about bringing Jesus to others.”  And yet people do say this; I’ve heard them say it.  Many times.
Are they totally wrong?  Aren’t we more scared to tell the gospel to others than we are joyful to do it?  Don’t we expect people to come to us rather than we go to them?  And when they do come, even then don’t we expect them to get on board with what we’re doing rather than going to them and showing them?

 

 

My prayer is that each one of you will take to heart what I am saying, and that I will also take it to heart.  Because Jesus, the Son of God, loves all men.  He loves sinners, even though their hearts are made of stone.  He loved Pastor Chehab and called him out of darkness.  Jesus loves the youth that have disappeared from our church and gone to follow the world and the devil.

 

He loves sinners, and He has the power to save them.

 

He has the power to save them even through the weakness of the people in His Church, even through you and me.

 

And He has sent this power of God that breaks stony hearts, that pierces the darkness of our hearts, to dwell among us.

 

This is what He told the disciples in the Gospel for this Sunday: But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and none among you ask Me, “Where are You going?”  But because I have spoken these things to you, pain has filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away.  For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go away, I will send Him to you.  (John 16:5-7)

 

Jesus was sitting at the table of the last supper, talking to His disciples after the meal, before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  When He told them He was going away, they were so full of pain they didn’t even think to ask Him where He was going.  But we know where He was going.  He was going to ascend to the right hand of His Father.

 

But you might not know why He was going to ascend.  Paul tells us: He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10). 

 

Jesus was not going to the right hand of God to escape from us and the sin and suffering we have here.  It was to fill all things.  Listen to me.  It was to do the work He was doing in Galilee throughout creation.  To preach the gracious, free forgiveness of sins.  But He would do it through His disciples who received the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

 

All the disciples could see as they sat at the table with Jesus was their own pain that they wouldn’t have Jesus with them anymore.  They could not see that Jesus was going to spread His Kingdom of salvation throughout the whole world, to all people.  That He would bring salvation to many people, all over the earth, and that He would do it through them.

 

This is what Jesus is still doing at the right hand of God.  By sending the Holy Spirit on His believers, He spreads the good news of righteousness and a completed salvation.  People believe and are added to His Kingdom of righteousness.  And He will do this whether or not we try to help Him.  He doesn’t tell the disciples, “If you are obedient, the Holy Spirit will convict the world.”  He simply says, “When He comes, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”

 

This solves one of our problems, one of the reasons why we are afraid to speak about Jesus to others.  Many of us are afraid we will offend people and drive them away.  But Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will do the convicting.  We simply open our mouths and deliver Jesus’ Word.

 

It also answers another problem that we have, which comes from a false idea about how Jesus saves people.  Many of us think that people should just come to church because it’s part of what good people do.  The third commandment and the first commandment tell us that we are supposed to worship God and listen to His Word, so people need to just do it.  If they don’t, maybe we need to make worshipping God more appealing to them.  But Jesus doesn’t say people will be saved that way.

 

He says that the Holy Spirit will convict the world.   The word means “rebuke, convince someone of guilt, show someone or something for what it is.”  For a person to be saved and be a Christian, they must be convicted. 

 

They must be convicted of sin.  They must be convinced that they are not good in the eyes of God, but sinners on their way to everlasting damnation.  That in God’s eyes they are sinners even when they do what the world calls good.  That if they do not believe in Jesus they are sinful in the sight of God because they despise His beloved Son.

 

A person will not accept this because I say it or you say it.  The Holy Spirit must speak it to them with divine power and authority and drive it home into their hearts.  But Jesus tells us clearly that the Holy Spirit will do this—and He will do this not from heaven, but through the word of the apostles, through the apostles.

 

The apostles were not supermen, were they?  Moments after this supper they went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane.  They fell asleep while He suffered.  When they woke up they all abandoned Him.  They were not glorious, holy men—not in themselves.  Jesus had to pick them up from their fall.  He had to bear their sins on the cross.  Then He had to convince them they were forgiven, they were righteous, so that they would be able to speak in His name.

 

That is the other thing that the Holy Spirit must do to the world through us.  After He has convinced the world of sin, He must convict the world of righteousness.  Think of how hard it must have been for the disciples to believe that they were righteous in God’s eyes after they denied Jesus.  How hard is it for you and I to believe that God’s verdict on you and me is, “Righteous?”  Today, tomorrow, every day of our lives?  It is very difficult to believe if you are conscious of the sins of your past, and if you look into God’s law and see the sins of your heart today.

 

In fact it’s impossible.  No one believes this by their own free choice.  It is a work of God’s power, a work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Yet it is a fact; Jesus has reconciled the whole world to God.  He has justified the entire world by His death.  The world does not believe in Jesus and so it pushes righteousness away and remains in its sins.

 

But this is what the Holy Spirit says to you and to everyone who hears the Gospel: You are righteous before God because Jesus, the Son of God, made fully payment for your sins on the cross.  Even your lack of zeal to see your neighbor saved, and your own weak faith.  They are not counted to you because they have been counted to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit convicts us that this is true.  That is why the preaching and speaking of God’s Word is the only way people are saved and His Church is built.

 

Pastor Chehab talked about “the dynamite”, the power of God in the Gospel.  It does not always happen that we see explosions.

 

But this power is present with us, no matter how big a bang it seems to make.

 

It convinces us that Satan has been judged and condemned, so that we go forward into the world confident of victory, even when it seems that the world and the darkness will swallow us whole.

 

And it is also what gives us love and zeal to tell the Gospel of Jesus to people around us.  There is no one whose heart is too strong, too hard for the Holy Spirit.  There is no one who has sinned too much, for whom the blood of Jesus will not atone.  Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us in the word and sacraments and He convinces us that with all our ongoing weakness we are righteous in God’s eyes.  As often as we fall and as deep as the fall has scarred our hearts, the Holy Spirit proclaims the same Gospel, that we are righteous through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Since He does this for us, we cannot lock him in to stay with us only.  What He does for us, what He says to us, He wants to say to everyone around us.  That is why He ascended on high—to give this gift to men.

 

Not just in foreign mission fields, but also very near, where our neighbors and relatives are worshipping idols and are bound for hell.  That’s why He sends the Holy Spirit to you. He wants to use you—us—to speak this gracious, joyful news, and give the gift of righteousness.

 

And though that can be hard, it is also exciting.  Because the Holy Spirit will not only rescue Pastor Chehab and followers of Islam’s idol, but also those who are in just as deep a darkness in our own families and neighborhoods.

 

It will be so, because the prince of this world has been judged.

 

Amen.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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Seed, Not Soil. Sexagesima 2018. Luke 8:4-15

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

sower van gogh.PNGSexagesima

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 8:4-15

February 4, 2018

Seed, not Soil

 

Iesu Iuva

 

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)

 

Jesus just told His disciples, and us, a mystery of God.  He told us how God’s Kingdom comes.

 

He didn’t tell how earthly kingdoms come.  That’s no mystery.  If Jesus wanted that, and wanted to teach His disciples how to do it, He would not have preached this parable to the crowd.  If Jesus wanted to have an earthly kingdom, He would have told that great crowd that came to Him, “You are all my disciples.  Follow me, and the whole earth will be ours.”

 

That’s not what He did.  He told them a story about seeds and didn’t explain it.  If He had explained it to them, they would have heard that they were not all His disciples.  They would have heard that He was not interested in making them winners in this world, rulers of this world.  They would have heard that God wants to make them despised by this world, offensive to this world, and pleasing to God.

 

God wants to make us His seed, His offspring, begotten by His Word.  He says: You are not soil, you are My seed.  You are not the man of dust, from which I made Adam, cursed by sin, able to produce only thorns and thistles. You are born of the seed of my Word, which bears fruit a hundredfold.

 

That’s what Jesus says: As for that on the path…The ones are the rock…As for what fell among thorns… He doesn’t say, “The path are the ones who…”  He refers to them as the seed that fell on the path, on the rock, among the thorns, in the good soil.  He doesn’t call people soil, but seed.

 

That’s because the Kingdom of God is not about getting a crowd together and exercising power and influence on earth.  That may be a byproduct of the Kingdom of God.  More often it is a counterfeit of God’s Kingdom coming.  There are still plenty of houses of worship that are packed to the gills with large crowds in this world, even many in our country.  But there are very few that fit the description of the Kingdom of God Jesus gives in this parable.

 

The Kingdom of God comes when the sower sows His seed.  What is the seed?  The seed is the Word of God.  Not partly the word of God, and partly the word of men; not seed that produces grain mixed with seed that produces weeds.  The seed is the Word of God.  Not the Word of God mostly, but they just don’t believe that Baptism saves, or the Lord’s Supper is Jesus’ true body and blood, or they don’t believe that God created the world in six days, like Genesis says, or they don’t believe you have to believe the same teaching to receive communion at the same altar.  The seed is the Word of God says Jesus, and only the Word of God.  People may be saved when the Word that they hear is corrupted by man’s word.  But God’s kingdom only comes when God’s Word is heard.  If other words are mixed in with God’s, the Kingdom of God comes in spite of those words.

 

God sends out His word with a purpose; the purpose is to save sinners.  His Word saves people who believe it.  When people believe God’s Word, they bear fruit for God.  Without God’s Word they bear no fruit.  Gathering a big crowd around you, even gathering a kingdom that extends to the ends of the earth, bears no fruit for God.  One or two people who hear the word of God and hold it fast in honest and upright hearts bear much fruit.  Without the word of God people are fruitless and barren and dead. With it they bear much fruit, “a hundredfold.”

 

The mystery of the Kingdom of God is: out of the seed of God’s Word, God brings offspring out of the cursed earth, out of human beings who are dust, and who return to dust because of sin.  He grows these offspring not for this present world, but for the world to come, where the curse will be gone, where death will be no more.

 

He does this in a mysterious way.  Seeds are very small, aren’t they?  Very small, and very simple.  Seeds are not billion dollar business empires.  Seeds are not movie stars.  If someone goes to Harvard or starts a billion dollar business, we think that is something.  Nobody thinks it’s something when you start the seed of a tomato plant in a planter in your window in February or March.

 

But seeds are more impressive than we think.  In the little shell is encoded the information and the material to produce the plant that will produce life.  One seed will produce a million more seeds, as well as fruit that can be eaten and flowers that can be smelled.

 

What human life produces a hundredfold, a million fold?  That is what seeds do.

 

The seed God sends into the world is His Word that proclaims His Son, who was incarnate of the Virgin, who died, like a seed sown in the earth, and rose again bringing forth a multitude of seeds, of sons of God who would inherit God’s Kingdom and everlasting life.

 

He sows this seed in a very low-tech way.  He has it preached.  It comes in other ways as well, but this is the primary way.  And whatever way the Word is sown adds nothing to the Word.  All the power is in the seed.  When it is heard and kept by faith, it grows and produces much fruit for God.  Whoever believes this Word has this life growing in him, in the soil of his body and his heart.

 

But God doesn’t call us who have the seed of His Word sprouting in us “the good soil” or “the rocky soil” that contains the seed; He calls us the seed.

 

His will is that this seed that He sowed in your heart grow up to eternal life, and that you become a seed like the one sown in you.  Like Him in producing good fruit; like Him in patient endurance of tribulation because of the Word that is in You; like Him in His death, His resurrection, His glory.

 

That is what God wants, and that is what will happen, as long as the pure seed is sown, and as long as the ground that receives it is good.

 

Not that there are people who are by nature “good soil” for the Word.  In your heart by nature are all the characteristics of the bad soil.  Sometimes your heart is hard like the path, like the broad way of the wicked, that hears the Word but ignores and treats it with contempt and tramples it down.  Then the devil comes and snatches it away.  Sometimes your heart is stony soil; you rejoice to hear the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus, but as soon as temptation comes you fall into sin, as though you had never heard God’s Word.  And of course in your heart by nature there are lots of weeds and thorns, worries about this life, the love of this world’s wealth and pleasure, and these will choke the Word of God.

 

But Jesus doesn’t say that the good soil is those who have no weeds in their heart.  He doesn’t say the good soil is those who are never hardhearted.  He says: As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

 

Our hearts are purified by faith in Christ.  When we hear the Word and believe it, God counts us righteous for Jesus’ sake.  New life begins in us.  Christ’s life takes root in us.  God regards this life born of the seed of His Word as the real you.  And it produces new desires and loves in you.

 

So pull up the weeds, break up the soil of your heart, chase away the birds, the demons, who want to snatch away the seed God has sown in your hearts.  Come to the Holy Supper with your distractions and your idols seeking His grace.  It’s not you making your heart good soil.  You are not the man of dust, you are born of the seed of God’s Word, and He is tending what He has planted.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Soli Deo Gloria

The Word of God Absolutely Pure and Unadulterated

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now…the Church is reaping what they sowed.

Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine. Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did. Consider that the word of Sirach, chap. 4, 33: “Even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee,” will come true in our case too. Let this be your slogan: Fight unto death in behalf of the truth, and the Lord will fight for you!—

We now take up a thesis for study which tells us that, since the two doctrines of Scripture, Law and Gospel, are so different from each other, we must keep them distinct also in our preaching.

Thesis II.

Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.

 

This thesis divides into two parts. The first part states a requisite of an orthodox teacher, viz., that he must present all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture. This, in our day, is regarded as an unheard-of demand. Even in circles of so-called believers, people act as if they were shocked when they hear some one say: “I have found the truth; I am certain concerning every doctrine of revelation.” Such a claim is considered a piece of arrogance…

Scripture requires that we have the Word of God absolutely pure and unadulterated and that we be able to say when coming down from the pulpit: “I could take an oath upon it that I have rightly preached the Word of God. Even to an angel coming down from heaven I could say: My preaching has been correct.” That explains the paradox [sic] remark of Luther that a preacher must not pray the Lord’s Prayer when coming down from the pulpit, but that he should do so before the sermon. For an orthodox preacher need not pray after delivering his sermon: “Forgive me my trespasses,” since he can say: “I have proclaimed the pure truth.” In our day, men have become merged in skepticism to such an extent that they regard any one who sets up the aforementioned claim as a semilunatic.

The Word of God tells us in a passage where the Lord is introduced as speaking, Jer. 23, 28: He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord. Our sermons, then, are to contain only wheat and no chaff.

The Apostle Paul warns the Galatians, chap. 5, 9: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. He means to say: A single false teaching vitiates the entire doctrine.

The warning with which John concludes the last book of the Bible is sounded as far back as in the days of Moses, who says, Deut. 4, 2: Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.

 

It is, then, a diabolical teaching to say: “you will never achieve the ability to give a Scriptural presentation of the articles of faith.” Especially when students hear a statement like this, it is as if some hellish poison were injected into their hearts; for after that they will no longer show any zeal to get to the bottom of the truth, to have clear conceptions of the truth.

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, pp. 29-31.

The Power of Darkness and the Finger of God. Oculi 2014. St. Luke 11:14-28

finger of godOculi (Third Sun. in Lent) + St. Peter Lutheran Church + St. Luke 11: 14-28 + March 23, 2014

“The Power of Darkness and the Finger of God”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Let each his lesson learn with care,

And all the household well shall fare.

 

Toward the end of Luther’s Small Catechism is a section that doesn’t get much attention—the “Table of Duties.” It is a list of verses from Scripture that show the holy stations to which God has assigned us, and how God wants us to live in those holy stations and callings as Christians. At the end of it comes that little rhyme: Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.

 

If you don’t care whether you do good or evil to your neighbor or whether you please God, the table of duties isn’t going to help you very much. But for Christians, who want to do good to their neighbor and want to please God, the table of duties is very helpful and necessary. It tells you what work God has assigned you to and how He wants it done.

 

The basic unit of human relationships is the family, the household. From the household comes the government and the church. When the household doesn’t fare well, the church and the state won’t either. And the household can’t fare well unless its members do the tasks God has assigned to each station. Even if you are a Christian and want to please God and serve your family, things won’t work well if you don’t do what you’ve been called to do.

 

For instance: “To Parents.” “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Which means that parents aren’t supposed to drive their kids to distraction with over-strictness. But they are also not supposed to fail to discipline them at all. God wants parents to bring children up in the Lord’s nurture and admonition—to teach them God’s strict law and threats of punishment, but also His gracious promise of the forgiveness of sins through His Son.

 

Or “To children”. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Which means that children are supposed to honor their parents as God’s representatives, and obey them in whatever they say, trusting that God sent these parents to them to do them good.

 

The table of duties also tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in the state and the church. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of them that do well.”

 

“A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre…holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

 

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”

 

But when these callings aren’t carried out as God ordained, the welfare of the household (or the church, or the state) suffers.

 

The Power of Darkness

Jesus tells us: “A kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a house against a house falls.” What applies to earthly households, earthly government, also applies to spiritual powers and authorities. The devil doesn’t fight with himself. He doesn’t allow his angels to divide their strength fighting each other. He doesn’t willingly give up the territory he controls.

 

What territory does the devil control?

 

The wealth and power and wisdom of the world.

 

Human souls, minds, bodies.

 

Read more…

The Gospel Fulfilled in Weakness–Sexagesima 2014 (2 Cor. 11:16-12:9)

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

satan buffets paulSexagesima Sunday.  St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet.  2 Corinthians 11:18-12:9. (St. Luke 8:4-15)  February 21, 2014. “The Gospel fulfilled in weakness”

 

In Nomine Iesu

Sexagesima means “60”; we’re about 60 days from Easter.  The church since ancient times has counted the days for Easter; waited eagerly for it.  The readings for Sexagesima Sunday, kind of like last week’s readings, call us to prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.

 

Of course it isn’t the celebration of Easter on April 20th, 2014 that is most important.  It’s how—whether—we will be able to celebrate the Resurrection on the day when the trumpet sounds and we are raised.  When we rise either to rejoice forever in Christ who was raised for us, or to weep and gnash our teeth for eternity and wish we had never been born.

 

The readings tell us what we need in order to be prepared for the resurrection.  It’s one thing—not hard to remember.  It’s the Word of God.

 

“The seed is the Word of God.”  Jesus doesn’t talk about anything else.  The kingdom of God is like a sower who goes out and casts seed around his field.  Jesus has nothing to say about the sower and his skill at sowing.  He only talks about the seed, which is the word of God.  That seed doesn’t malfunction.  It always grows and produces fruit.  The only other thing Jesus mentions is the soil the seed falls on.  The only time the seed doesn’t grow and produce fruit is when it doesn’t fall on good soil.

 

So there are only two questions for you and me to answer this morning.  The first is, Am I hearing the Word of God?  Am I receiving the seed?

 

The second is, What kind of hearing does God’s Word get from me?  Am I like the path, or the rocky soil, or the soil with weeds, or am I good soil?

 

Not that those are easy questions!

 

But let’s begin with the first question.  “Am I receiving the Word of God?”  This is the question Paul was discussing with the Corinthians in the Epistle.

 

The church in Corinth had first received the Word of God from Paul when he came on his missionary journey through Greece.  But since Paul had left the Corinthians had gotten some new teachers.  Paul calls them the “super-apostles.”  Many of the Corinthians had come to the conclusion that because these preachers were so much more impressive than Paul they must actually have the true word of God, or at least a more full word of God, than Paul brought them.

These preachers apparently boasted about their qualifications as preachers or apostles.  They were apparently eloquent, powerful speakers.  They boasted about their labor in Christ and the visions, revelations, and superior knowledge they had received from Christ.

 

The Corinthians thought that because these men were so impressive they could be sure that now they had the true word of God.  So Paul is writing to the Corinthians saying—No, these men are not superior to me, and the message I brought to you is God’s Word.

 

I have the same qualifications as them.  I am an Israelite, Abraham’s seed.  And I am more a servant of Christ than they are.  And I too have had visions from God.

 

But when it comes time to brag, as the super-apostles had done, Paul brags about strange things.  He doesn’t brag about his visions, his knowledge, his successes in winning converts.  He brags about his weaknesses, his infirmities.

 

I was given the 40 lashes minus one 5 times.  Beaten with rods by the Romans 3 times.  Stoned once.

 

I was caught up into heaven and saw and heard things that we are not allowed to say on earth.  But that doesn’t prove I am an apostle.  Instead I was given a thorn, a spike in the flesh, to buffet me (that is, beat me, hit me in the face).  He calls it a “messenger” or “angel” of Satan.  Does God allow his apostles to be tormented by the devil and made weak?  Is that what you should expect from a real apostle or preacher?

 

And the Lord did not take it away because, “My grace is enough for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

So Paul says, “I delight in infirmities” and in persecutions, distresses, being weak and hungry, being abused and treated scornfully, so that “the power of Christ may rest on me.”

 

The power of Christ, the grace of Christ.  It is the Gospel.  It comes to us in the Gospel. (Romans 1:16-17…I am not ashamed of the Gospel.  It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.)

 

The Gospel of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

We despise the word because it appears weak and brings cross, weakness, infirmity to us.

 

Note the way Jesus describes the Gospel: “The seed is the Word of God.”  An unimpressive delivery system.

 

The only question is, are we getting the Word of God?  That is not proven by the greatness of the minister or the church.

 

That is why most of the types of soil Jesus describes do not receive the seed in a fruit-bearing, saving way.  Human beings are not able to receive God’s Word apart from a miracle.

 

Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay

Death brooded darkly o’er me

Sin was my torment night and day…

 

My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining.

Free will against God’s judgment fought…

My fears increased till sheer despair

Left only death to be my share

The pangs of hell I suffered.

 

Yet the Gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to all who believe…it rests upon us even in our weakness and infirmity.  Jesus says its “power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

But God had seen my wretched state

Before the world’s foundation,

And mindful of His mercies great

He planned for my salvation…

 

Though he will shed my precious blood

Me of my life bereaving,

All this I suffer for your good

Be steadfast and believing.

Life will from death the victry win

My innocence will bear your sin

And you are blessed forever.

 

So if you have the Word of God, then you hear it, and you go on hearing it, and you daily die to the rocks of pride and the weeds of lust…and you put on the new man.  You come to Him who destroyed our old nature in His flesh and who has been raised and hide in Him.

 

The desire to be good soil is the Spirit’s work.  The good soil are sinners who flee to Christ.

 

His power rests on us in our infirmity.  Preachers and hearers.  He bears good fruit in us who by nature can’t do anything good.  It is a miracle.  We die and he lives in us, but solely through the Gospel word that declares that He has already done it.

 

The peace of God…

 

SDG

Kebab, Compassion, and Christian Liberty

15 BOUTS CHRIST IN THE HOUSE OF SIMONhttp://cphpost.dk/local/two-men-assaulted-selling-pork-kebab-shops

For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

 These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”  Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.  So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7] 

Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”

If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them.  The only question should be whether your values are right.

It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country.  But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.

The same thing is true for Christians.  We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them.  We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.

But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them.  To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.

It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions.  But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression.  It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it.  But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.

In the Church we have a similar problem.  In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork.  But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime.  It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.

In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned.  We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person.  So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church.  At least in some areas.

So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside.  We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.

We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc.  That is because it is not our Word.  It is God’s.  To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.

Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”.  If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.

 

 

Prayer Before the Sermon. Luther

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Eva...

Martin Luther, commemorated on February 18 Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2006), 15. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

54.  Prayer before the sermon.  Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz.  Concordia: St. Louis, 1881.  (p. 44)

Dear God, through Your beloved Son You have said that those who hear Your Word are blessed.  How much more fitting it would be for us to bless You, praise, thank and laud You unceasingly, O eternal and merciful Father, with glad hearts, that You show Yourself so friendly—indeed, so like a father—to us poor little worms, that You speak to us about the greatest and highest of subjects—eternal life.  Nevertheless, You don’t stop there, enticing and wooing us to hear Your Word through Your Son.   He says: “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.”  As if You couldn’t get by without our ears—we, who are dust and ashes!  Many thousand times more do we need Your Word.  O, how unspeakably great is Your goodness and patience!   On the other hand, woe!  Woe! over the ingratitude and colorblindness of those who not only don’t want to hear Your Word, but even stubbornly  despise, persecute, and blaspheme it.  Amen. Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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