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Lent 3 Oculi 2019 - Ephesians 5:1-9

Lent 3 2019 Oculi

Ephesians 5:1-9

What is Proper among the Saints

March 24, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Beloved children.  This is our place in God’s church, children, who are really loved, really forgiven and accepted, through the sacrifice of Christ. This position makes a high calling.  We are to be imitators of God the Father. Children often imitate admire and imitate their fathers, for good and sometimes for bad. This is only natural.  Children learn by what they see and what they hear.  They learn what it is to love by being loved. So as God’s children, we are to imitate our Father especially in His love, but also in His purity, generosity, wisdom, and greatness. 

One of the greatest tragedies in our culture today is the absence of fathers in home, the absence of role model who models himself after God the Father.  Recent surveys by the Barna Research group indicated that children are 60% more likely to remain faithful in church attendance, prayer, and identifying as Christians when their father is regularly involved in church and their formation of faith in the home.  The role of the father in bringing up of children in society in general, and church in particular, is extremely important.  And our culture’s current war on men and masculinity makes things even worse.

The answer to this is that we are also to be imitators of God the Son.  We are to walk in love, as Christ has loved us. Imitate His love in a very real, practical, self-sacrificing way. Christ’s love is our example, and even more, our motive, to follow that example.  Christ is our calling. And while the world may be full of hatred, the children of God are to breathe an atmosphere of love as defined by and exhibited in Jesus. This love fills our hearts, our words and actions; and it is a holy thing, not mere sentiment or emotion, or good ethical behavior.

There is more here than just morality. Paul is concerned with our holiness, which is not just a matter of morality and behavior, but of closeness to a holy God. God’s holiness is a consuming fire burning up unholiness and uncleanliness, which separates people from God. This is why Paul states that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph 5:5). Sin, as well as the out of place talking about these things which tempt and lead us astray, separates people from God.

What’s the answer?  It’s more than just be good and avoid sinful living, though these are important.  Again, the answer lies in Christ and who you are in Christ.  You are a saint, a holy one, made clean by the blood of Jesus, and you are light in the Lord.  You were darkness, not you were in darkness, but you were darkness.  But now you are light.  You have been made saints, people set apart and consecrated by God Himself through the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has set you apart from this wicked generation. In Baptism, you have been stripped of the old Adam. Its old ways are not yours anymore. You have been clothed in Christ, in His holiness and righteousness, holy ones washed in the blood of the Lamb, justified before God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. You are to walk as children of light because that’s who you are as saints. Do what is proper among the saints.

The deeper we enter Lent, the more intense we see our struggle between sin and righteousness, between sinner and saint. We see it in the life of Christ as He approaches the cross, and we see it in our lives evermore clearly.

The point is this: the world and the devil and your sinful flesh will rage against you.  As saints we are to avoid the sins of the flesh, the sins of the tongue, the sins of covetousness.  These are all related. It’s a very interesting thing that in the New Testament letters when sexuality is mentioned, it is always directed toward the behavior of the saints.  There’s a great danger in sexual immorality beyond the sin against the body. For the Ephesians, who were steeped in Roman religious practices, it was a path back to idolatry. We may not have Roman god and goddess worship, but we do have idolatry of the body with its passions. Sex and sexuality contrary to God’s design and will have become an idol and our world covets and craves this idol. The devil doesn’t want you married, nor chaste.  The enemy is relentless, a strong man, the prince of this world. He has been dethroned by Christ, who is stronger than the devil.  The world revels in perversion and tries to make you think it is normal, or good.  But don’t fall for it.  Don’t be so gullible.  Do not partner with them in your attention, your words, or in your actions.  Remain chaste, devoted to your husband and wife, to your children and family.  Your call to be holy means that you are extraordinary.  As someone once said, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman with their ordinary children” (G. K. Chesterton).  Whether you are married or single, guard your body against sexual immorality, guard your soul.  These sins are deadly, eternally deadly, for those who are sexual immoral or impure, those who are idolatrous through coveting, those who have no repentance over their sin and therefore deny Christ and His forgiveness have no place in His kingdom.

Children of God, we must shake off our indifference, a destructive tolerance of evil. Since the fall into sin, we all have a disordered heart, a heart that desires the wrong things; sexual immortality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking.  These are sins that we are to avoid. These are inconsistent with our calling.  We must learn again and again to have what St. Augustine so aptly coined, “A well ordered heart is to love the right thing to the right degree in the right way with the right kind of love.” We must be willing to focus upon, to speak, and to love what it good, what is right, and what is true.  This begins and ends with hearing the Word of God and keep it. You were not made to fit in. You were born again to stand with Christ.  He is the stronger man, who has invaded this sinful world in His incarnation to snatch you out of the grasp of the devil and your own sin, to gather you to Himself.  The grace of God keep you steadfast in that true faith in Christ.

Midweek Lenten Service 2

Midweek Lent 2 2019

Isaiah 52:13–53:5; Luke 10:25–37

The Salutary Gift: Healing Medicine

March 20, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Lent 2 2019 Reminiscere - Romans 5:1-5

Lent 2 2019 Reminiscere

Romans 5:1-5

March 17, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

From our epistle reading for this morning, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Whenever you come across a sentence that begins with “therefore” you should always ask what it is there for.  The first four chapters of Romans spent a lot of time confessing the reality that all have sinned, that no one is righteous not even one, that everyone stands equally guilty before a holy and righteous God. No human will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 

It’s a bleak picture really.  We have no righteousness of our own, no goodness that deserves anything except the wrath of God revealed from heaven against ungodliness and unrighteousness. We cannot boast about ourselves, even in the least.  For no one can be justified, declared righteous, in the sight of God based on their own works. Yet, Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteous.  Likewise, “[Faith] will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Therefore, after being declared righteous by God, this declaration, this justification we receive from, out of, due to faith in Christ brings us peace. This peace is not some kind of subjective feeling that is based on emotion.  Much more profoundly, it is the objective state of being at peace instead of being enemies.  It’s not the absence of war or conflict, like we normally use the word, but it is the presence of what is good.  Peace, then, is a good relationship we have toward or with God.  The first several chapters of Romans makes it abundantly clear that this does not come about in any way, shape or form from us to God but this is always and ever and only a relationship of peace with God based on His declaring us righteousness, which is always and ever and only through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even more, through Christ, we obtain and retain access by faith into this grace, into God’s undeserved kindness and favor.  We stand on this grace, not as a one time gift, but a daily reality, a daily foundation. By faith, we not only gain entry into grace, but also our present state of grace and our hope of sharing in the glory of God.  Faith alone is the beginning, middle, and end of everything (FC SD IV 34).

This leads to our rejoicing, but it’s actually quite a shame that many modern English translations use “rejoicing.”  It’s more than “rejoice”. The word here really means, “boast”. We boast in the hope of the glory of God.  This too is more than just a confident expectation of the future, but a present tense bragging.  Boasting in the Law or in our works certainly excluded.  But boasting in the things of God is proper and in fact a natural reaction to our peace with God. This is how St. Paul can also say in both of his letters to the Corinthian Christians referencing Jeremiah 9:23, “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31, 2 Cor 10:17).

And even more, we rejoice, we boast in our sufferings. It’s not that suffering is good. In fact it is bad and will be done away with at the resurrection.  But hope enables us to continue boasting even in the midst of sufferings.  Why? Because we have peace with God, both in the future and in the present!  

And this then leads to endurance, a patient endurance, to stay standing on the firm foundation of our hope in Christ in the middle of pressure and suffering that tries to knock us down. This then leads to character, to a tested character, an approved character. This is character that comes like the testing of metals refined by fire, a process of enduring something, enduring suffering with patience that promotes and validates the character of the one undergoing it – a character formed by Christ.

This isn’t a list of virtues we have to work on going through, one step at a time, but these are effects of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of God’s people. God leads us through suffering. He teaches patient endurance, He develops character, then we end up right back where we started, with hope.  There’s a progression here of maturing in the Christian faith, but not distinguishable stages of faith, since the end point is no different than the beginning. These words reassure us of God’s intention for His people when we are afflicted by any pressure or hardship or temptation: Patient endurance leading to approved character which then works its way right back to hope, and because this hope is in Christ, is as certain and sure as Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Whatever it is that you are going through, whatever temptations and hardships and trials and suffering, hope survives and thrives because God’s love has been poured into, and remains in, your hearts through the Holy Spirit. His love is not without a continuous effect. It continues to dwell within our hearts through the Holy Spirit and point you to Christ. The foundation that you are justified in the sight of God, declared righteous through faith in Christ, who ransomed you by His precious blood and raised on the third day. Because of this, you have peace with God, a peace that passes all understanding. Focused on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection we know that suffering is not the whole story. God will use afflictions and for your good and to bless others. He will keep His promises and by faith, there Christ suffered for you, and when you must suffer, He leads you in faith, justified, in the hope of the peace you have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Much of this sermon is based off the exegetical insights and meaning of the Greek words used in the text.  See BDAG and Concordia Commentary: Romans 1-8 by Middendorf

Midweek Lenten Service

Lent Midweek 1

This Salutary Gift: The Bread of Life

March 13, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Lent 1 2019 Invocabit - Genesis 3:1-21

Lent 1 2019 Invocabit

Genesis 3:1-21

March 10, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

 

Our OT reading for this morning from Genesis 3:1–19 gives us the account of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin and the resulting curses pronounced upon them and the serpent. Though God had given them for food all the trees of the garden, including the tree of life, Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent preached that they would not die because God knew that when they ate they would be as God Himself. Indeed, they would be gods unto themselves. The result of their eating was death, just as the Lord had promised. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Is it any surprise then, that our Lord, after His baptism in the Jordan, is called into the wilderness? He fasted, and while he was fasting, a voice in the wilderness cried out, “If you are really the Son of God…” The temptation for Adam and Eve was to reject their calling as creatures and become as gods to themselves. The temptation for Christ was to reject His calling as the Son of God, submitting to the Father’s will, and take matters into His own hands. But our Lord does not bite the bait. He keeps the fast that Adam failed to keep.

For us men, and for our salvation, this new and better Adam said “no” to the devil’s temptations. Rather than eat the forbidden fruit of earthly power and glory, Christ ate ashes like bread and mingled His drink with weeping (cf. Psalm 102:9). He refused to satisfy Himself, to indulge His appetite, and denied Himself food and drink for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. He was content to live by the Word of His Father.

The devil tempts Him in three ways. 1st temptation is one of greed and caring of this life so that you neglect the Word of God. The devil attacks Christ with the worry of His body, His hunger, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”  This temptation is common among Christians, especially by those who have less than most. It is for this reason that St. Paul warns that the love of money is the root of all evil, for it is the fruit of unbelief.  Christ’s answer, “Man does not live by bread alone.”  God certainly gives daily bread even without our prayers, but our life is sustained by the Word of the God, not by the things of this world.

The 2nd is a spiritual temptation, about tempting God. What happens is that the devil teaches us to put God to the test.  He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and tells Him to tempt God, to throw Himself down to see if the Father will really take care of Him.  It makes perfect sense that this temptation follows the first one very. When the devil finds a heart which trusts in God in lack or need, then he attacks on the others side.  When there is no lack, he tries to create the idea that is one.  Where there is no lack for the body, the devil goes after the soul. It’s like when you start to get bored with God, with coming to church, with reciting the creed or the Lord’s Prayer or the liturgy, when you think you know it all well enough and need no more instruction by the Word. This is a dangerous plague by which the devil deceives the hearts of many, but not the Word of God incarnate.

The 3rd temptation involves empty glory and the power of this world. The devil shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them if only Jesus would worship him.  How ridiculous this must seem to the creator of all things.  The nations already are His, as are you.  And He is yours. If Christ is with you, what else do you need?  Would you choose to give up glory, fame, power rather than the Word?  This is what happens with us: if we have nothing, then we doubt God, if we have much, they we become tired of it and want to have something else. It’s the idea that whatever God does for us is never right.  

Here Christ gains the victory and teaches us how to gain the victory. All this then is a mirror of bodily and spiritual temptation, with which the devil daily plagues and afflicts us, so that we are in a constant and unceasing fight with him. Church after church is under assault. And the temptation is always to make church less churchy.  No more hymns that link us to the past or teach deep truths to music.  No more liturgy that gives us God’s Word as our language of prayer and praise. No more Scripture readings that are too long regardless that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Enough is enough. Fight back.  Abide in the Word. Cling to Christ. Resist the temptation of the devil and the sinful world who seek to make you like them.  You are baptized into Christ and His victory.  By your side we have also the gracious presence of the Lord Christ to comfort us, and His holy angels, as the Lord says in John 14:30, “See, the prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing on me.”  The best shield and weapon against this is God’s Word and prayer. That is why this Sunday is called Invocavit, from Psalm 91:15, “He calls on me, and I will answer him.”

Jesus’ temptations are not just a duel with the devil or an example for us to follow.  Rather, the point is that all of Jesus’ temptations are salvific.  They are part of God’s plan of salvation.  By Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness and on the cross, He triumphed over the devil and won the forgiveness of sins for all people. The main purpose of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness was to redeem the history of Israel—and of all humanity—in the person of Jesus. And this, He did, to deliver us. As we pray in the great litany:

“Good Lord, deliver us. By the mystery of Your holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity; By Your baptism, fasting, and temptation; by Your agony and bloody sweat; by Your cross and passion; by Your precious death and burial; By Your glorious resurrection and ascension; and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:” Help us, good Lord.

Ash Wednesday 2019

Ash Wednesday 2019

Genesis 3:1-15; Joel 2:12-19

March 6, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This sermon is adapted from the CPH series, The Salutary Gift

Quinquagesima 2019 - Luke 18:31-43

Quinquagesima 2019

Luke 18:31-43

March 3, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

It was around the year 1050 BC and it was the end of the era of the judges in Israel.  The prophet Samuel was an old man by this time, his sons were corrupt, and the elders of Israel wanted a king. Not only did they want a king, but they demanded one to judge them like all the other pagan nations, who would go out before them and fight their battles. Samuel didn’t like this one little bit, and neither did God, for making this demand they rejected God from king over them. Samuel warned the people with God’s own words that this was a bad idea and that it would not go well with them. But they wouldn’t listen and doubled down on their rejection and hardness of heart. And so God gave them what they asked for.

For 20 years Saul reigned as king, and it was not good. Saul turned from following God and did not follow His commandments. And so when the time was right, God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse from Bethlehem to anoint someone new, for God had provided form Himself a king from among his sons. Jesse’s youngest son, a shepherd, ruddy in appearance, beautiful eyes and handsome. He wasn’t really considered to be much.  But God’s doesn’t care about the external appearance, rather he looks at the heart and seeks one who will not run after other gods.  David, whose son would be a greater king, was anointed by Samuel and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him from that day forward.

Before Samuel’s time, the Lord’s spirit is not mentioned all that often before the time of the judges.  But now, the rush of the Spirit upon David indicates something important has happened.  The Spirit of the Lord abides with God’s chosen leader. This bestowal of the Spirit ought to make us remember Jesus’ anointing at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descending upon Him.  And on Pentecost the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples.  Unbelievers who repented and believed in Jesus were invited to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This sets the pattern for the church. Christian baptism is the divine anointing with the Spirit. In the Old Testament priests and kings were anointed, and now all are welcome to receive this anointing into the royal priesthood of all believers in Christ.

When a king of Israel is called the “anointed one” it is always God’s anointed one, not Israel’s.  The anointing, as is Baptism, is God’s choice, and God’s work, not man’s. When God chose Saul He gave the Israelites the king they had requested, their kind of king. In rejecting Saul, God also rejects Israel’s way of choosing. The choice of a new king was not because of the people’s demand, as it was for Saul, but now because of their need, according to God’s criteria – “a man after God’s own heart.” The people got the king they wanted in Saul.  Now, it was time for God to give them the king they needed.  Samuel’s focus is directed away from Saul’s ruined potential to what God will do through the branch of Jesse, David, a man after God’s own heart.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus explains to His disciples, for the third time, what it means that He is the Son of David, that He is the great David, the greater king.  But Jesus isn’t the kind of king that most of them want, but He is the King they need. He doesn't look the way a king should look, yet his heart is Divine. He heals, He preaches, He teaches, He gives life to the lifeless, and forgiveness to the sinner. And His kingship is expressed upon the cross. Crowned with thorns, He is be mocked, spit upon, shamefully treated, flogged and killed. This isn’t how kings were supposed to be treated. Through these things, He will fulfill what was written about Him by the prophets.

The disciples don’t get it. But the blind man does, for by faith, he sees clearly who Jesus is. When He hears that Jesus is coming, he cries out not once, but twice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:38).  By faith, he recognizes who this Jesus is: the Son of David. Jesus, David’s greater Son, brings health and salvation to him who believes. And what’s more, this man follows Jesus, glorifies God, and others who see it, give praise to God as well.

And so do we.  Jesus isn't the King you always want, but you are no longer blind to Him, and He certainly is the King that you need.  He doesn't bow to your will, He doesn't worship you, He doesn't thank you for gracing Him with your presence in church this morning. He rejects your prideful, self-importance and vanity as surely as He rejected Saul. This is how He judges, not like the nations of the world, but in righteousness and holiness, condemning your sinfulness and taking your sin and guilt upon Himself.  This is how He goes out before His people and fights your battles – by the cross.  And He is victorious, for you, over your sin and over your death.  Here is not just a man after God’s own heart, but in Jesus we see the heart of God Himself, on His way of sorrows but also to His resurrection glory, and now ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

Lent begins this week.  This is not the kingdom that the world wants, and even many a Christian. The ash on the forehead, the sign of the cross, fasting, and almsgiving, and heightened prayer. These things show a theology of the cross, a time centered upon Christ and Him crucified, the King crowned with thorns and pierced for our transgressions.  And we follow Him all the way, to rise with Him in the newness of life. But to follow Him requires much love for Him.  It means more than loving what He has done, but to follow Jesus with seeing eyes of faith, sure and certain hope of the resurrection, glorifying God along the way, living not for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised on the third day.

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