Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost - Make Good Use of What God Has Given You
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 13, 2019
Order of Service: The Common Service, page 15
Hymns: 239, 421, 384 & 460, 485
First Lesson: Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 38 (page 81)
Second Lesson: 1 Timothy 2:1-8
Gospel Lesson: Luke 16:1-13
Make Good Use of What God Has Given You
I. Shrewd use
II. Spiritual use
In the name of Jesus, our priceless Treasure because He is our only Savior, fellow redeemed, At first, the plot of this parable sounds like that of a trashy TV show. Estate manager lies – and still gets praised by his boss! Doesn’t it tick you off to see the wicked in our world win? The crooked prosper? High school dropouts get rich with some shady scheme? Cheaters in school make the honor roll? What lessons do such situations teach us? Well, isn’t Jesus teaching the same sort of lessons here? This is the most troubling of all our Lord’s parables. Had it been taught by a sinful human, we’d write it off as foolish nonsense. But our sinless Savior, true man and true God!, said it. And so we listen! Since God makes no mistakes, since God would never instruct us to do anything that would harm us or promote sin, we listen. We listen even – and especially – to this seemingly twisted, apparently unethical parable – and we learn from what Jesus teaches here! What lesson is Christ teaching here? It has to do with stewardship – managing what we have been given. We are to make good use of what God has given us. And the good uses taught here are shrewd use and spiritual use of what God gives us.
You didn’t forget the parts of this story during our confession of faith and singing All depends on our possessing / God’s abundant grace and blessing, did you? The main character is a businessman accused of wasting his rich master’s plentiful possessions. The trouble the manager got himself into was deserved. He never protested, “But I’m innocent!” He knew the charges against him were legitimate. The manager also knew he couldn’t raise enough money to cover what he’d wasted. “I am not strong enough to dig, so manual labor is out of the question as a way to earn money. I am ashamed to beg (v. 3) like the poor and destitute. And what are the chances anyone will ever hire me again as a manager – or to any position of responsibility? I’ve wrecked my life!” He had no one but himself to blame, right? Then he hatched a devious plan. While the manager still had access to his master’s books, he rounded up others who owed the master money. He had them drastically alter their debts to make it appear they owed less. That would be good news for those who owed money. It would be a great advantage for the manager who was about to be fired. “When I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their homes (v 4). They will feel they owe me a place to stay and food to eat because I got their debt to our master reduced.” What’s disturbing comes at the end of Jesus’ story. “The master commended the dishonest manager” (v. 8). How in all the world could a wealthy man who had just been swindled out of as much oil as would be produced by four hundred fifty olive trees, and as much as the yield of nearly one hundred acres of wheat, praise the crook who swindled him? Was the master out of his mind? Didn’t he care that a sizable chunk of his money was gone? Was he so rich that it didn’t matter? The Savior doesn’t answer those questions because those questions don’t pertain to the point He teaches here. Christ wants us to read more closely. Yes, the manager had wasted his master’s possessions. But “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Not honestly, but “shrewdly”. The dishonest manager had a problem. He realized the problem. He made a careful plan to take care of the problem. That is the point of this parable from Jesus. Jesus certainly doesn’t condone anyone’s wastefulness, dishonesty, or shady deals. He declares all that sin. That doesn’t change. The lesson is, Make shrewd use of the gifts God has given you. “The children of this world (v. 8), unbelievers, may be less than truthful, dishonest, downright sneaky. But they are shrewd when it comes to getting what they want. If only My people, the children of the light (v. 8) who love Me, were so shrewd!” Is the Redeemer overreacting? No! Is Christ’s criticism correct? Yes! He’s never wrong! It’s true that the world pursues its greedy goals and rushes after its selfish successes with cold, heartless efficiency. Too often we believers go about our Father’s saving work half-heartedly. Worldly-minded unbelievers use their money for their own advantage. Do we believers at times put God’s kingdom matters on the back burner, low on the priority list, at the end of our items to do today? The lesson from the King of the Kingdom here is this: “I’ve given You children of Mine ample gifts. Use them shrewdly!”
Hold it! Is that really the lesson here? Doesn’t God often warn us about money, possessions, wealth? No. God never warns us about money, possessions, wealth. He gives us money, possessions, wealth. He warns us about loving money, possessions, wealth – about trusting them more than Him. The Savior teaches us here to make good use of what He’s given us. The most Godly use is spiritual use of what He’s given us. “Make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings” (v. 9). “Mammon” is a Hebrew word for what a person trusts. The sinful self shouts, Eat, drink, be merry! Don’t make friends with your money. Use money on yourself! That’s the attitude God hates. “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). But money is a gift from God to us. He wants us to use it in ways that please and honor Him. “The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much. And the person who is unrighteous with very little is also unrighteous with much. So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mamon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own” (vv. 10- 12)? Jesus steers our attention from the wastefulness of the manager to the light of His truth about faithfulness from us who are blessed by God. Not just blessed with wealth, but also with the greatest Gift of all: Jesus the Savior and trust in Him! God made us richer than we could ever have hoped to be when He brought us into His family through trust in Jesus for forgiveness of our sins. Nothing else in the world matters more than that! But He has showered us with more than that! We have the additional blessings of having more than enough to live on. How do we use our God-given wealth? Spiritually? Some times not. How many of us have admitted to God our sins of being content to give Him only our leftover time and leftover dollars? God wants our firstfruits, our first and best! We have the greatest mission of all. Not eliminating world hunger. Not establishing peace in the Middle East. Not wiping out cancer. But the mission that has to do with “eternal dwellings” for ourselves and loved ones and neighbors and strangers. We have God-given opportunities to make friends – not just for our enjoyment in this life, but for His family forever! The Savior tells us some day this life will be over. If we grab the moment with spiritual priorities, as shrewdly as the people of the world do to secure rusting treasures, we will be used by the Holy Spirit to make an “eternal” difference. But if we see only worldly uses of what God gives us, eternity for souls means little to us. We make best use of what God gives us when we join our spiritual trust to our earthly treasures, use all we’ve been given for the spiritual blessings of ourselves and others. Some day souls won for the Lord by the Lord’s suffering hell for the world, souls won by His gospel as His “children” make shrewd and spiritual use of what He has given them, will greet us in our heavenly home. “Thank you!”, they will tell us. “Thank you for using that money and time and ability to tell us about the only Savior!” Will some of those souls be our own children? Do we show at home that things spiritual and “eternal” are more important than what is worldly and entertaining? Do priorities set and lessons taught at home center on what is most valuable? Do the people around us get the idea we use what God has given us to satisfy ourselves? Or to work in God’s kingdom? Do our efforts show we are energetic about God’s kingdom work? Or apathetic about it? Martin Luther laid it on the line to Wittenberg believers when he preached on these verses almost five hundred years ago. “If a farmer, a townsman, a merchant, a miser, this woman, that maid are able to serve the devil with such diligence and allow no drudgery to weary them, why should I not, too, be willing to serve my Lord, whom I am to enjoy forever, in the same way? They rush about as if they were insane, yet they are merely pursuing their eternal harm and ruin. Why, then, am I, where my soul’s salvation is concerned, so sluggish and sleepy that God must drag me to it by the hair? Why, I ought to spit at myself for not even creeping toward heaven, while those folk rush and run to hell the way they do. Look at the manager in these verses, a man of whom greed has really taken possession! You will find that his thoughts grant him rest neither day nor night; all his pondering and planning are directed to making money. Now we should learn to interest ourselves in the eternal with the earnestness with which a miser interests himself in money. But where do you find the Christian who does so? Where? Right here! We are driven by the Lord and His Word to make faithful, shrewd, and spiritual use of what He gives us. May all our individual and congregational uses of what God gives us reflect what God has done for us: sent His Son to forgive sins, to declare sinners Not guilty, to open the gates of heaven to us in Christ. When that is at the center of our hearts in all we decide and do, then the Master who gave Himself for us is always more important than the things He gives us. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
St. Michael & All Angels
St. Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2019
Hymns 550, 198, 434, 587
First Lesson: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Psalm 91 (page 100)
Second Lesson: Revelation 12:7-12
Gospel Lesson: Luke 10:17-20
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
God Makes His Angels Our Helpers, Not Our Heroes
I. God’s angels are sent by their Maker
II. God’s angels help believers in the Savior
In the name of Jesus, the only Savior, fellow redeemed, God had Paul write in Romans, “They have traded the truth about God for the lie, worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator, who is worthy of praise forever” (1:25). That divine disgust must be kept in mind on this St. Michael and All Angels Sunday. Well-intentioned ideas make more of created angels than should be made of them. Two examples: Angels are not mini-deities who deserve praise; we join angels to praise their Leader and our God. And what is read in some obituaries is wrong. When believers in Christ die, the believer’s soul does not get wings, does not become an angel in heaven to watch over us on earth. In heaven, angels are angels and souls stay souls – until the Last Day when the body of the believer is joined to the believer’s soul in heaven forever. The goal of the Christian Church’s minor festival of St. Michael and All Angels is to grow in knowing what God tells us about angels and what God uses His angels to do for us. What God’s angels are like and what God uses His angels to do are truths far different from the angles about angels dreamed up in movies and shows, books and human imagination. God makes His angels our helpers, not our heroes. His angels are sent by their Maker, and His angels help believers in the Savior.
Much mystery about angels melts when we realize God created them – just as He did Adam and Eve, the sun and trees and everything in the universe on one of the six twenty-four hour days of creation. Therefore, angels aren’t free to do what they wish. As creatures, the angels are subject to Him who made them. The angels do only what God wants them to do. Well, that’s true of the good angels; more about evil angels later. God made angels immortal beings who exist throughout history and into eternity to serve Him. He created them without gender; angels don’t reproduce. The number of angels remains the same in every century; there are likely billions of them. God made them all equally good and holy, and at first they were able to sin or not to sin. God created them spirits, living beings without flesh and bones. In a few instances they took on a visible form. God showed angels to a few in the Old Testament as having wings to teach the Jews and us how swiftly angels travel when He sends them. But in their essence, angels are invisible. All that from God’s Word helps us know why God made them. Angels are not decorations; God made them to serve Him. God doesn’t need angels to help Him. He’s God! He can keep the world and its inhabitants alive and well all by Himself! But it pleased God to have angels praise Him, and to move throughout His world as He sends them, not as they decide to go. That’s part of this text. You know some lessons from this book of the Bible: three men in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den. Those were four of thousands of Jews who’d been led from Israel as prisoners of war to Babylon (modern-day Iraq). God gave them trust in Him alone when Babylonian laws declared faith in God alone illegal. God gave Daniel the ability to interpret strange dreams and to make wise decisions. God’s blessings made Daniel “a highly valued man” (v. 11). Here, God pulls back His curtain to show us a bit of what goes on in the spiritual realm, including how angels are sent by their Maker. Daniel was troubled, “trembling” (v. 10), “shaking” (v. 12). Daniel had wondered for seventy years whether Israel would ever get back to the Holy Land. Well, God had allowed the Jews to return a few years earlier, while Daniel stayed in Babylon to work for God there. But enemies of the Jews were blocking Israel from rebuilding God’s temple and resettling there. That wasn’t just a struggle for power. Daniel had poured out his heart, God, if Your chosen people can’t live in the land You gave us and where You promise the Messiah will be born, will we – or any sinners ever – even have a Savior? God, taking the form of a man in this vision to Daniel, showed Daniel a supernatural struggle taking place: “an officer (an evil angel) of the kingdom of Persia was standing against Me for twenty-one days. Yet Michael, one of the chief officers, came to help Me” (v. 13). God had used the Persian government to help Israelites return home. But Satan sent an evil angel to gum up God’s work among His chosen people there. What a comfort for Daniel to know that God sent “Michael” (v. 13), a chief angel from heaven, to Israel to fight for God’s people and plans. Five hundred years later, the Savior, was born in Bethlehem, David’s town in Israel, just as promised. God’s angels don’t assign themselves to tasks or people. They go as God sends them, when God sends them, where God sends them. God created angels to assist in the work of His Church. God sent angels to Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds, to the women at the tomb – all to announce great news to believers at Christmas and Easter. God sent angels to free various apostles from jail. God’s angels still fight for His people. What a comfort to know God’s angels are sent by their Maker to serve Him behind the scenes! We don’t praise angels, but Him who made them and sends them. He, not His angels, is our Hero!
The devil wants our St. Michael and All Angels study to get us thinking more of angels than of their Maker. As a fallen angel himself, Satan knows what the Savior has done, the victory the Savior has won, for every sinner. The devil wants to divorce us from Jesus. Though God doesn’t need help, He uses His angels, sending them to help believers in the Savior. The good angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the benefit of those who are going to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Our lesson didn’t include Daniel Chapter 11. Take some time to read it later today. In that chapter God showed Daniel three kingdoms would arise in the Middle East in the near and more distant future. History records King Xerxes of Persia came to power, then his empire was defeated by Alexander the Great who established the Greek Empire, which in time was overthrown by the Roman Empire. All that happened just as God foretold here He would cause those kingdoms to rise and fall! Where in this parade of nations was Israel? Through all that rising and falling, Israel was kept safe by the LORD so the great King over all kings, Jesus, would be born where He promised! Not His angels, but God, is our Hero. Jesus came to earth to do more than protect us. He came to live, die, and rise to save us! With all the head-spinning events in our nation and around the world today, some political observers say, It’s a madhouse out there! Not true. The world is really an arena, a battlefield where conflict constantly rages between the forces of God and the forces against God. By ourselves, we are no match. But God is in control! He sent “Michael, the great prince who stands over your people, to arise… Your people, Daniel, will be delivered, along with everyone who is found written in the book” (v. 1). Behind the scenes God sends Michael and other angels to help believers. What a comfort! God uses His angels to protect us! But the greatest comfort is that God used His blood to write our names in “the book”, His family register! The threats of those enemies will stop when God returns! Then, those “who are sleeping in the dusty ground will awake, some to everlasting life” (v. 2). In the resurrection on the Last Day, God’s people will rise to live with God in the “life” that is perfect and never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever ends! But “some to shame, to everlasting contempt” (v. 2). Those who spend and end their time on earth evading God will hear God say, “You wanted to be without Me. Now be without Me – forever! Be without me – in shame!” Many of them picture God as a lovable deity who’d never do more than slap sinners on the wrist. That’s not who God says He is. His flood at Noah’s day makes Friday night’s rain look like a mist. His scorching of sexually immoral Sodom and Gomorrah make fall wildfires in California look like a tiny spark. His throwing of wicked Queen Jezebel to the dogs shows that the one true God will not be mocked and dare not be offended! Those who refuse Him, who resist Him, who rebel against Him will see forever just how powerful He is, and how true to His Word He is! The last two verses of our lesson don’t have much to do with angels. That’s God’s point! The good angels aren’t our heroes; they are helpers of the Savior! Jesus, and the Father, and the Spirit are our one victorious God. To Him be all glory and praise! And to Him, all sinners are to be led. “Those who have His insight will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who bring many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever” (v. 3). From God’s Word we have learned to recognize our sinfulness, as well as our Savior from sin – the Savior confessed publicly by our newest members this morning! When temptations fly all around us to be like the sinful world, it isn’t easy to live as God’s children holding to all God’s Word and keeping all God’s laws. But God helps us – and sends His angels to protect us – as we live like His lights in this sindarkened world. Who do we know who needs to see Jesus as the Way – the sure Way and the only Way – into God’s family? May God richly bless our work to use His Word to “bring them to the light of Christ’s righteousness” won by Him for them, for us, for all! Exactly how Michael fits into the hierarchy of God’s angels we aren’t told. But what Michael and all the good angels do for us, we are told. God made them to help us. But we need more than angels. We need God’s help in His Word and Sacrament as He keeps us in the faith that the rotten angel and his helpers in hell want to shove out of our hearts. We need God’s help from His holy angels to protect us from harm, as God used Michael and other holy angels to protect the people of Israel when they returned to the Holy Land where the Savior would be born. When Satan whispers that this world is out of control, even out of God’s control, we tell him to get behind us. He’s only an angel, and the evil one who’s been crushed by the Savior. Today, and often, we thank God for His holy angels and their work as their Makes sends them! Today, and always!, we praise our Hero, our Savior-God who has done all the work to rescue us from hell and to win for us “everlasting life”. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost - We Marvel at God's Grace
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 11, 2019
Hymns 221, 290, 386, 382, 462
First Lesson: Genesis 18:1-14
Psalm 119a (page 109)
Second Lesson: Colossians 1:21-29
Gospel Lesson: Luke 10:38-42
We Marvel at God's Grace
I. He comes down to meet with sinners
II. He does the impossible for sinners
In the name of Jesus, the Savior, dear beloved by the LORD, Our state touts the truth that no matter where you are in Michigan, you are no more than a two-hour drive to a Great Lake. All around our splendid peninsulas are marvels God has made: towering dunes, beautiful beaches, lots of wonderful water, and more. To many, the beauties of nature are God’s greatest acts. But if creating out of nothing in six twenty-four hour days a beautiful, intricate universe were God’s greatest act, we’d be in huge trouble. Why? What would quiet God’s anger over our sins? Who would pay for our lifetime of transgressions? How would we get ourselves to heaven? It’s less controversial to ignore God’s truth about all of that, and just generically confess God is great. But that shallow attitude could lead to hell. We need more than a good Lord who has given us a good place to live. Thanks be to God, He is more than the mighty Creator! This lesson falls between God repeating His promises to Abraham the LORD would make Abraham’s family great and bless every person in history – you and me, too – through Abraham’s family, and God warning Abraham He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their immoral ways. What a great God! He doesn’t let us guess where we stand with Him. He doesn’t tone down His anger over our guilt. And God most certainly does not let sinners figure out how to save themselves. God deals with sinners by His grace! God’s grace dominates this lesson – and all His Word. It’s not scenic beauty made by God’s breath, but God’s grace for sinners, at which we marvel most. We marvel at God’s grace which moves Him to come down to meet with sinners and moves God to do the impossible for sinners.
We know now what Abraham didn’t know around noon that day. This was the LORD, who identified Himself later that day, and two of His holy angels. That’s what made the appearance of these three at Abraham’s tent an unusual sight. But it was God’s grace that made it a miraculous event! The LORD took on human form for a few hours, and allowed two of His holy angels to do the same. To Abraham, they looked like “three men” (v. 2). Why would God and two angels leave the glory of heaven for an appearance on earth in “the heat of the day” (v. 1)? To meet with sinful Abraham and Sarah. For all the couple knew, these were human strangers walking by their home. Still, wealthy, aged Abraham showed his faith in the LORD who had made such great promises to him. Abraham provided rich hospitality to seeming strangers. He brought them water to wash their feet and faces, and to drink. He told them, in Hebrew, “Let me get you (v. 5) a fragment to eat.” A fragment? Abraham asked Sarah to get “twenty quarts of fine flour, knead it and make some loaves of bread” (v. 6). Abraham selected a “tender calf” (v. 7) for the meal – an amazing choice since they generally ate meat only on the most festive occasions! In the heat of the day all this was done at a “hurried” (vv. 6,7) pace to show great kindness to their guests, though they were seeming strangers to Abraham and Sarah! Why such lavish hospitality? Abraham marveled daily at God’s grace that God had come down to earth several times to meet with Abraham and announce wonderful promises to a sinner like him. Yes, it had been twenty-four years since the first promise to make Abraham’s family great, and still Sarah had not given birth to a child. Rather than living as a grumpy old man, Abraham lived marveling at God’s grace that moved God to come down to meet with sinners. Though hidden from Abraham at the moment, this would be yet another time the LORD in His grace came down to earth to meet with sinners! Why did the LORD come to them? He doesn’t need food to eat or relief from the heat. He came down to meet with sinners. And God still comes down to meet with sinners – with us! Do we marvel at His grace? Why are we right here right now? To make an obligatory weekly appearance in God’s house? Shame on us if that’s why we’re here! We are here because here is where God promises to meet weekly with His people, to speak to us sinners of His wrath kindled by our disobedience to His laws and of His love to pay the penalty we sinners deserve! What grace that God comes down to meet with us sinners to tell us often of His work to save us! Why do we bring our infants to this font? Why do we communicants come to this table? The sacraments aren’t acts we do to show God our loyalty to Him. If that’s our motivation, we should not come as communicants to His Supper! The sacraments are God coming to us to fill us with faith, forgive our sins, apply the work of Jesus to us individually, assure us we are His forever! What grace that God comes down to meet with us sinners to give us His saving love! What a marvel! The almighty God comes down to us! It is His down-to-earth, seeking, caring love which melts our cold, stubborn, sinful hearts and wins us to Himself. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God came to us as He did to Abraham and Sarah that day, to Mary and Martha that day of our Gospel Lesson? He does! He is – right here and right now! – in Word and Sacrament! What a marvel! And there’s more! God promises we will have an eternity of meeting with Him face-to-face in heaven where we will celebrate with Him at the feast of the Lamb!
Would a teen enjoy hanging out with his nine-year-old sister? That’s not considered cool, right? Should the LORD enjoy hanging out with sinners? What grace that God doesn’t groan, “I hate being with those losers who are so inferior to Me and sin against Me!”, but delights to come down to meet with sinners! But does He delight to come down to meet with us sinners so He can rub His hands together in glee about eventually sending us to burn in a destruction far worse than the fire and brimstone He sent on Sodom and Gomorrah for their homosexual rebellions against His holy law? No! We marvel at God’s grace that He does the impossible for us sinners! Abraham helped with the meal, then stood in the background like a servant. Abraham and the LORD didn’t make small talk about the weather, the economy, or the nasty leaders who had taken Lot, Abraham’s nephew. It wasn’t until the guests were eating that God spoke, revealing His specific purpose for coming to those specific people that specific day. He was there to announce, again!, His plan to do the impossible for sinners! Why did God ask Abraham, “Where is Sarah, your wife” (v. 9)? Didn’t God know Sarah was back in the family tent? Yes! The reason He asked was to let Abraham – and Sarah! – know His reason for coming was to tell them more about His plan to do the impossible for them – and for all sinners. By asking about Abraham’s wife by name, God was letting His human hosts know He knew them, was no stranger to them, was their God, is the only true God. By asking about Sarah, the LORD was also declaring to Abraham and Sarah this visit was no chance occurrence, but was by divine design to tell them about His plan to do the impossible, to repeat for Abraham what the LORD had already told Abraham several times – and now to let Sarah hear the same wonderful truth with her own ears. What was the plan? What wonderful truth had the God of grace come down to earth to tell these sinners? “I will certainly return to you when this season comes around next year. Then Sarah your wife will have a son” (v. 10). In twelve months Abraham – at one hundred years old – and Sarah – in her nineties – would have their long-promised child. And not just any child, but “a son” from whom Abraham’s family would grow into the great nation God would use to provide the world with His greatest blessing, His greatest grace – the Savior! You know Sarah became pregnant three months later and delivered a son at the exact time the LORD promised. And you know that – at God’s command – they called their son Isaac. That name means he laughs. It was a significant name on several levels. Abraham laughed in believing joy when the LORD had revealed that to him in the LORD’s previous, private visit with Abraham about doing the impossible for this elderly husband and wife – and for the world. Here, Sarah laughed in uncertain doubt when God said the same thing within her earshot. We laugh, but not in Sarah’s skeptical doubt. We laugh in Abraham’s trusting joy that the LORD has done the impossible by becoming true man, one of us, coming to earth through the line of Abraham and Sarah – just as He promised! We marvel that God blessed an old, barren woman with a pregnancy and safe delivery of a healthy boy! Well, how about God blessing a virgin by being conceived in her womb – and through that miracle child every sinner is saved?! We marvel that God let a one hundred year old man become a father at a time when most people lived only to eighty! Well, how about God agreeing to take the sins of the world on Himself at the cross to be the Savior?! We marvel that God made Sarah’s dead womb alive with a son! Well, how about God the Son raising Himself from the dead?! We marvel most at God’s grace – not just that He would come down to earth to spend time with us sinners, but also that He has done the impossible to save us sinners! Or is that old news, a boring truth, the same bland message that makes us yawn, not marvel? It is not old or boring or bland when we confess we’re damned sinners before Him, but are given forgiveness from Him now and life in heaven with Him forever because He covered our sins by His grace! Who’s the most important person you’ve ever met? A senator or governor? An athlete or actor? A musical artist or media personality? None of those! The most important person we’ve ever met is God! More accurately, God is the most important person who has come down to meet us! He came to us when we were drowning in sin and He rescued us! He comes to us often to remind us of all He’s done for us and who He has made us! For all of that we marvel most – and daily! – at God’s grace! Amen. Pastor David A. Voss
8th Sunday After Pentecost - All Our Faith Needs is Christ
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
August 4, 2019
Hymns 255, 348, 459, 597
First Lesson: Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25 (page 74)
Second Lesson: Colossians 1:1-14
Gospel Lesson: Luke 10:25-37
All Our Faith Needs Is Christ
I. Faith comes from Christ
II. Faith shows forth Christ
III. Faith focuses on Christ
In the name of Christ, who gave His life for us and rose from death for our confidence and direction daily, fellow redeemed, What we really need is two months until school starts, right? What we really need is civility and respect from politicians, right? What we really need is more members worshiping more regularly, contributing more faithfully, helping more consistently, right? No. None of that is what we really need. What we really need is more of what we already have, what Christians and Christian congregations have always had – faith in Christ. Remember the father who pleaded with Jesus, “I do believe. Help me with my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)? His son suffered from an evil spirit which was destroying the young one’s life. We know how the father felt. We know we believe in Christ. Or we think we believe in Christ. Or we hope we believe in Christ. Sometimes we have our doubts, don’t we? Doubts arise when we are tempted by – then fall headfirst into – sins about which we had always told ourselves, I’ll never say that, do that, think that, watch that! Doubts arise when God’s Word and Christ’s Supper no longer hold a special place on our list of priorities. Doubts arise when prayer is rare in our spiritual lives. Doubts arise when, as with the father who spoke to Jesus, the fire of serious trouble singes our family and the Lord’s only answer seems to be, Trust Me absolutely! Our faith struggles trouble us because we know how crucial faith – faith in Christ as full payment of our debt with God – is for life with God. What our faith needs is what Paul taught in nearly every chapter of every letter he wrote. What our faith needs – indeed, all our faith needs – is Christ: faith comes from Christ, faith shows forth Christ, and faith focuses on Christ.
Today we begin a four-Sunday series of lessons from Paul’s letter to believers in the city of Colosse. He’d never been there, and he’d never get there. So, what was Paul’s connection to the Colossians? The Holy Spirit had sent Paul to Ephesus, a port city on the Aegean Sea in what we know as western Turkey, and had blessed Paul’s Gospel work there. People in Ephesus and the region around it heard from Paul the message of salvation through faith in Christ alone. One of those people was “Epaphras” (v. 7). He traveled one hundred miles from Colosse west to Ephesus. The Holy Spirit had led him to trust in Jesus through what Paul preached about Jesus. Then Epaphras took the good news of the Savior back to Colosse, and the Holy Spirit had Epaphras establish a Christian congregation there. “You came to know the grace of God in truth. You learned this from Epaphras” (vv. 6-7). But the believers in Colosse struggled. False teachings crept into the congregation there. Epaphras was very concerned. He made another trip – this time one thousand three hundred miles on foot and through mountains – to visit Paul in prison, to get from God’s apostle God’s help for God’s young congregation. Rather than just speak with Epaphras, Paul wrote this letter for all the Colossian congregation to read. It is a letter from “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (v. 1). Paul’s instruction wasn’t about raising funds or building projects. It was all about the Savior, and it was truly from the Savior. Was their faith a little tainted after false doctrine had reared its ugly head and was pressing on the consciences of new converts in Colosse? Not at all! Not when the people remembered what God’s Word had taught them. The true source of their “faith and love” (v. 5) was “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). That is why Paul began this letter from his heart thanking God, then reminding them their faith in Christ was a sure thing because it came from Christ. Many today deny that. They say, “Jesus did His work during His time on earth. Now it’s up to each person to accept Him and His payment.” But how can we work up our own faith in Christ when we began life without a spark of spiritual life? “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Christ and the Spirit and the Father gave us faith in Christ. All our faith needs is Christ. Not just words about Christ and His life and death and rising for us. Also words from Christ. That’s always been God’s way for His churches. If we had a huge balance in the bank, but a huge hole in our hearts where faith in Christ once was, what good would that be? All our faith needs is Christ, the very One from whom our faith comes.
To some faith in merely an emotion, a feeling. “There’s too much talk about faith in the church, and not enough action. Faith doesn’t pay bills, fill stomachs, shelter the homeless. Faith is just a token that does you no good until you cash it in at the end of life.” That isn’t true about true faith. True faith in Christ is living and active, motivates the faithful and energizes the Church. All our faith needs is Christ to show forth Christ. The fairly new believers in Colosse had heard some heresy. Some false teachers were saying, “Faith in Christ is a tiny start for your walk with God. But if you want deeper insight, more solid knowledge, a fuller life with Him, you need more than God’s Word.” Epaphras was solid enough in his faith to recognize that as a religious lie. But the newer Christians at Colosse thought that might be God’s truth. The Spirit used His Apostle Paul to give them true instruction and divine direction. Paul wrote, “May you…be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (v. 9). That knowledge satisfies and is practical. It includes the “wisdom” properly to apply faith in various situations – knowing right from wrong, what is harmful to our trust in the Lord and what is beneficial for our life in the Lord. It is also the “understanding” to evaluate religious ideas – holding to what is true and from God, rejecting what is false and from man (really, what is from Satan through man). All our faith needs is Christ to show forth Christ in daily living and decisions. Such faith in Christ produces knowledge of God and of what God wants. That helps God’s people “live in a way that is worthy of the Lord” (v. 10). The more we come to know God as revealed in His Word and in the life of His Son, the more we grow in our relationship with Him. The more we understand what God has done for us and wants from us, the more we desire to obey Him by thinking, saying, and doing only what pleases Him. That is faith which shows forth Christ in our lives. Faith isn’t hidden in the believer. Faith in Christ leads His people to “bear…fruit in every kind of good work” (v. 10). God’s law prunes the tree that is our life with God, cutting off the branches of words and works, attitudes and actions that God forbids. God’s Gospel waters and fertilizes the branches of words and works, attitudes and actions that God desires. That fruit includes “endurance and patience” (v. 11). What do we do when family problems shake up the home or financial challenges stir up the congregation? Get frustrated and short-tempered? Or tap more and more into God’s promises to save and sustain us, and take on God’s power to remain calm and steady in the light of His grace? Only one of those approaches is a fruit of faith in Christ which shows forth our faith in Christ.
False teachers in Colosse said, “We can’t see Christ, so we need something to fill the religious gaps.” Some Colossian Christians were falling for that. We hear the same lies and temptations. Follow Christ in here. Follow the world out there! That isn’t how Christ’s people live. We need nothing more – or less – than faith in Christ which focuses on Christ! God has “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (v. 12). Sinners whose offenses against God were not completely paid for would not be fit to live in the presence of the holy God. No sinner has any power to earn God’s favor. We needed someone else to pay our penalty and earn an eternal “Not guilty!” verdict for us. That One is Christ. He has “qualified us”. We don’t need anything else or anyone else to fill any gaps. God “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vv. 13-14). The rescue mission is complete in Christ. The Son of God took on a human nature and became the Substitute for every human ever. He lived in perfect obedience to His own commandments to gain for us sinners the holiness we could never achieve. He made the ultimate sacrifice to suffer our hell. His work for us was accepted by the Father, and His rising from the dead declares that it is all true and done and paid for. Our faith needs nothing more than Christ; we focus on Him alone! What else do we need? Our sins are covered in Christ! When Satan whispers about working things out on our own, we remember Christ’s victory shout, “It is finished” (John 19:30)! What more do we want? Heaven is certain in Christ! When the world wants us to focus on our solutions to problems, we remember the power God gives and of which God says, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And that grace is embodied in Christ! Everything that bothers us is put into perspective by our God-given faith to focus on Christ. A woman was told she had only six weeks to live. She struggled to come to grips with that diagnosis. “Six weeks and I’ll be dead!”, she sobbed. When her pastor visited, she said, “I’m not ready to die because I don’t know if I have faith!” The pastor comforted her, “Don’t tell me about your faith. Tell me about Jesus!” That’s what she needed to hear. That’s what her frightened mind needed to know. That’s what she did in the hospital room – and later under hospice care. She gave others a clear and certain witness of what Christ had done for sinners to win forgiveness in Him now and life with Him forever. For all the matters that confront us physically, spiritually, congregationally, financially, emotionally, personally, all our faith needs is Christ. He’s done it all for us. He gives us His power to do His work. He is our foundation, our focus, our forgiveness, our faith. Amen. Pastor David A. Voss