Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010 - "Sing for Joy! Christ is Born!"

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Isaiah 52:7-10 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.


          1. Your God reigns!

          2. The LORD has come!

          3. The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!

          4. This Savior is for all nations!


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have come to see those things which the Lord has made known to us. Grace and peace to you.

Singing. Some people like it, some people feel uncomfortable doing it, and other people SHOULD feel uncomfortable doing it. Singing is usually something we associate with being joyful. That is why we sing when it is someone's birthday – it is a joyous occasion. As far as the Church is concerned, singing has always been a part of the Church's worship activities. And that fits perfectly with the idea of singing being associated with joy because above and beyond all others, the Church has much to be joyful about! And fewer times are more joyful for us than when we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus. Some of our most beloved hymns were written to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

As we consider the reasons we sing for joy, we turn to our text from Isaiah 52. In both verses 8 and 9 he writes of singing. The immediate reason for signing for joy be the return of the Children of Israel from their 70 year captivity in Babylon. Listen to verse 7 once again, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” It would be a beautiful thing to see a messenger arriving with the good news that the captives were free and were on their way home. Loved ones that had been gone from their childhood, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, brothers and sisters that may have never met would be reunited when the captives returned. This would be evidence that God was still reigning in favor of His people. Do you think the people would sing for joy on an occasion like this? Most certainly!

While the immediate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy would be when the captives returned to Jerusalem, there is a greater fulfillment of these words. We heard them last night from the mouths of our children. Verse seven of our text has so many striking parallels to the Luke 2 account. Consider how Isaiah writes of the feet of the messengers are beautiful because they bring “good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'” What was it that the angel announced to the shepherds? It not good tidings of great joy or as Isaiah says, “Good news of happiness.” The angel published salvation when he told the shepherds that a Savior had been born unto them. The multitude of the heavenly host also published peace when they sang their glory. The angels came to announce to the shepherds that their God reigns. Every promise God had made about the Messiah, He had kept. Christ the Lord was born in the city of David! What a reason to sing for joy!

What did the shepherds do once they saw the Christ-child? We heard last night, “When they saw it, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” They took the place of the angels and themselves became the messengers with beautiful feet. They brought the good news of happiness that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem. They published the peace and salvation that the Christ-child would bring. They announced to all who heard it, “Your God reigns!” Certainly the shepherds had every reason to sing for joy as they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things which they had heard and seen as it was told unto them.

Our children last night had beautiful feet as well because of the message that they carried. Those heralds of the Gospel announced the very thing Isaiah writes of in our text. They brought to us the good news about the birth of our Savior from sin, Jesus. The published the peace and salvation that Jesus brings us through His life, death, and resurrection. We heard them sing for joy because our God reigns – Christ the Lord is born!

We have been reconciled unto God through Jesus. We are at peace with God through Jesus. His birth means our salvation. May our feet likewise be beautiful as we announce to the world the good news that our God reigns! Let us sing for joy!

The book of Psalms is basically the hymnal of the Old Testament. Though there are some significant differences between our hymnals and this one. The book of Psalms has no melodies preserved for us today – we can set them to any melody we want or simply speak them. But the biggest difference is that the words are not written by an earthly author, but God Himself is the author of these hymns. Let us then turn to one of these psalms, Psalm number 99, and read responsively how the LORD our God reigns!

Psalm 99:1-3,9

Go Tell It on the Mountain” - SS Choir


Last night we sang what is for many, their favorite Christmas song, “Joy to the World!” The hymn writer, Isaac Watts, captured some of the thoughts found in the first verse of our text. Consider the second verse, “Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!” This is a great joy to know that our Savior God reigns. How does He reign? Isaac Watts answers that in verse four of “Joy to the World,” “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

But the beginning of verse one of Joy to the World seems to fit quite well with verse 8 of Isaiah 5. Verse one begins, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” In verse 8 of our text we read, The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. God had forsaken, Zion, after the Children of Israel had forsaken Him. They had pursued false idols and turned their back on God. So God gave them over to the hands of the heathen Babylonians who utterly defeated the Children of Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. These events would take place about 150 years after Isaiah wrote these words.

But Isaiah says that the Lord will return to Zion. 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar took captives from Judah to Babylon, the people would return. The watchmen of Judah would be the first to see this return. The watchmen's job was to be constantly on the look out for any approaching threat on the city he was watching. He might be in a tower or in a field, but his only job was to be a look-out for the people of the city. Isaiah speaks of the watchmen lifting up their voice and together signing for joy, because they see the return of the LORD to Zion. “Eye to eye,” Isaiah says they see the return. They see the return of the LORD to Zion as He keeps His promise to free the people from captivity and return them to the Promised Land. The watchmen sing for joy because they see that the LORD has come.

The night Jesus was born, a group of shepherds thought was a night like every other in the country-side around Bethlehem. A night of watching over their flocks to protect them from thieves and predators, like wolves and bears. But God had selected them to be a very special watchmen – not just over sheep. To those shepherds God revealed that His Son, their Savior had been born in Bethlehem. When they heard what had happened, they came with haste – speedily to Bethlehem to see this thing that the Lord had made known to them. And they found it just as the angel had said. They saw the Son of God, their Savior from sin, the baby Jesus with their own eyes. “Eye to eye” they saw the return of the LORD to Zion!

How do you think the shepherds reacted to being able to look into the eyes of the “Ancient of Days,” “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” their Savior, who is Christ the Lord? How do you think you would have reacted? Observe and then return to your sheep in the field, like we do after looking at Christmas lights? Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Lk 2:20) They lifted their voices in singing, singing together for joy, for the LORD has come in the flesh to save them!

We have seen the return of the LORD, eye to eye, haven't we. Not with our physical eyes, but with our eyes of faith. Last night our children took our eyes of faith to see the birth of our Savior. With our eyes of faith we saw Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. With our eyes of faith we have seen our Savior Jesus be crucified for all of our sins and raised from the dead to give us life. And we know that the LORD will return yet again. He will come again in glory on the last day and we will see His return eye to eye. We have every reason to sing for joy, for our LORD has come!

Let us sing for joy by making use of Psalm 96 set to music in our Worship Supplements, page 26. The congregation is invited to join in singing the antiphon, which the organist will introduce and then is repeated 3 times throughout the psalm and the Gloria at the end of the psalm. You are encouraged to follow along as the verses of the psalm will be sung responsively between myself and the choir.

Hymn 96 - “Oh, Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly”


Why is it that people who may otherwise not set foot in a church, suddenly appear in Christmas time? One is only left to speculate, but it seems people are willing to come to church on Christmas because it seems so un-threatening. It is a happy time. A baby is born. Angels are singing. Shepherds are abiding. Wise men are traveling from afar. Maybe they remember going as a kid and it makes them feel better to relive it in that way.

But how innocent and un-threatening is Christmas? True there is a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, but why is that Child there? Why was that Child born? What was that Child's purpose in life? While we may not like to think about it, that Baby was born to die! From Jesus' earliest days, people were trying to kill Him. Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem in search of the Christ-child, seeking to kill Him. When Simeon rejoiced to hold the Christ-child in his arms, he told Mary, “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Lk 2:35) 33 years later, Mary would see her baby Boy nailed to a cross, bleeding a dying. Certainly soul-piercing sight for any mother.

It may be a soul-piercing thought for us too, to think that this Baby, of whom our young children sang last night, was “Away in a manger,” will some day be bleeding and dying on a cross. But we need to remember that Good Friday is the reason Christmas is worth celebrating. If there is no whipping, no bruising, no bleeding, and no dying there is no reason to celebrate this season. We must view the cross if we are going to view the manger. This Baby would have to be come a curse for us, that we might be freed from the curse of the law. This Baby would have to suffer for us, that we would be freed from an eternity of suffering for our sins. This Baby has to die that we might live.

What were the good tidings of great joy that the angels had? Just that a baby had been born? That this Baby was Christ the Lord? While the birth of a baby is a reason to rejoice, and the fact that this Baby was Christ the Lord was all the more reason to rejoice, the truly good tidings of great joy was that Christ the Lord came to be our Savior!

Verse 9 of our text, “Break forth into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” Jesus came to comfort us and redeem us. Actually this is one and the same thing, isn't it. We can't be comforted if we aren't redeemed. If we have not been bought back from our slave owners of sin, death, and the devil, then there is no comfort for us. But the LORD has comforted His people. He has redeemed us! That Baby in the manger would go on to give His Holy precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death to redeem us unto God. There is our comfort! We are God's own possession. We belong to Him. He purchased us by the death of His Son. Sing for joy! The LORD has comforted and redeemed us!

Let us join in confessing our faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, by using the words of Martin Luther's explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostle's Creed. This can be found on page 5 of your bulletins. Please rise.

HYMN: 709 – God Loves Me Dearly


Imagine being left out of Christmas! Imagine that Christmas was for everybody else, but you. How would that feel? But how could you be left out of Christmas? Christmas is for everybody. And not like the “Christmas for Everyone” that I saw on TV last night – where a Jewish Rabbi and a Muslim Imam participated in a Christmas service at some church in New York City. That was a sham and almost blasphemous as those who reject Christ as their Savior were invited to give a Christmas message.

No one is to be left out of Christmas, because Christ was born to be the Savior of all. Remember what the angels told the shepherds? Who were the glad tidings of great joy to be for? "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Lk 2:10) This was good news for ALL PEOPLE because Christ the Lord had been born for ALL PEOPLE. What joyous news this is!

This is exactly what Isaiah wrote of in verse 10 of our text, “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” The redemptive work of Christ was not hidden, it was revealed to all the nations as the Gospel was spread into all the World. God wants all the world to know why His Son was born. He wants the ends of the earth to hear of salvation of our God. This is why He has commissioned His followers to preach the Gospel throughout all the world.

Christmas is for everyone because Jesus came to save everyone. He wants everyone to hear that He came to be their Savior. He wants all the world to be comforted in the news that He has redeemed them unto God. He wants everyone to believe on Him and be saved. “God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn 3:16-17) Therefore only those who reject Christ should be left out of Christmas. And they are left out because they do not want Jesus as their Savior. But for every sinner who desires to forgiven and comforted, Christmas is for you! For Christ came to save you! What greater reason to sing for joy!

Let us sing this new song to the LORD for the marvelous things which has done, by reading responsively selected verses of psalm 98 on page 6 of your bulletins.

HYMN 106: “The People that in Darkness Sat”

Christmas Eve 2010

"Hark! the Heralds!
Heralds of the Gospel"

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Isaiah 35 - "The Gospel According to Isaiah: III) What Christ Brings on Our Journey"


Isaiah 35:1-10 - The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Theme: What Christ Brings for Our Journey
- Water in this wilderness
- Healing for the disabled
- Protection from predators

Dear fellow travelers in Christ,
Many of you are familiar with the Alphabet Game. It is usually played on camping or road trips. There are various versions I’ve heard, but the one I’m thinking of starts out with one person saying, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring...” and that first person tells of an item that starts with the letter “a” that he is going to bring. Then it to the second person. The second person has to repeat what the first person said and then say something they are going to bring that begins with the letter “b.” And so it goes around the campfire until you go through the alphabet. It gets very amusing somewhere around the letter “n” when people begin to forget what the previous people said. It can also be amusing what some items people say they are going to bring. Really it’s a silly game created just to occupy time.

Well as a believer in Christ you are on a journey. You are on a journey on “the Highway of Holiness,” as Isaiah calls it. It is a journey that began when the Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart. Many of you may not even remember beginning this trip, because it began when your parents had you baptized as a baby. But you know you are on this journey now because you are following Jesus. This Highway Jesus has us on is the path to heaven through faith in Him. So as we are on this journey, what is Jesus going to bring for us? Christ brings water in this wilderness. Christ brings healing for the disabled. And Christ brings protection from predators. This is what Christ brings for our journey to our heavenly home.

When you think of problems traveling in a desert or wilderness, what is the first problem you think of? Water! There is no water in a barren wasteland or a desert. Water is a priceless commodity upon which our lives are dependent. If we don’t have water we aren’t going to survive.

Our journey in Jesus on the Highway of Holiness takes us smack dab through a barren spiritual wasteland, a true desert of sin. The world seems like it has so much to offer - money, fame, power, sex, intoxication, and the like. But none of these things can quench our spiritual thirst. They only leave us thirsting for more and more. More money, more power, more fame, more sex, more drugs, and more alcohol.

Only Jesus can quench our spiritual thirst. When Jesus was sharing the good news with the unbelieving Samaritan woman at the well He said, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14) This is what Jesus brings for our journey through this spiritual wasteland. Jesus comes with water.

So many people are thirsting for this spiritual water. How many times have you heard people ask, what the meaning of life is? Their spirit is thirsting for the truth. They’re not quite sure what they are searching for but they know that they have not found it. Until they find the Gospel they will continue to be parched. It is only Jesus who can quench that thirst. He came to the barren wilderness of this world with heavenly refreshment. He came with true love. Not the emotion of love, but the action of love. Jesus came to offer His life as a ransom for all. For all - not just one or two of His friends, but for all - friend and foe alike.

This is the water Jesus supplies us through His Gospel for our journey through this parched land. The water Jesus supplies produces life in the desert as it creates faith in our hearts. Faith which blooms in the desert of this world. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. In this world of sin that life saving water now flows through His Gospel. Christ brings us water for our journey through this desert.

In our Gospel reading for this morning, we heard the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus if He was the one - the promised Messiah. Jesus’ answer to them? “God back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:4-5) The works of Jesus testified to who He is - true God and true Man. This is exactly what was prophesied of here in Isaiah, would happen when God came. But Jesus did not just bring this to those who were physically blind, lame, leprous, deaf, dead and poor. Christ brings this healing to the spiritually disabled also.

The Apostle Paul wrote of this to the Ephesians, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world.” (Eph 2:1-2a) We all were born dead in our trespasses and sins. All men born into this world were born with this fatal condition. According to our bodies we were alive, but according to our spirits we were dead sinners. It took an act of the God of all life to give us life. This is what Jesus brings. We who are by nature spiritually blind to the things of God, deaf to the things of God, spiritually lame - Christ brings healing.

God is the Creator of life. He gives life and makes alive. Spiritually God does this by His Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit enters the heart of man creating spiritual life. This God creates faith that believes in Jesus, the Son of God, as Savior. This faith looks to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. This faith looks to Jesus for perfect righteousness. Christ came to bring life and healing. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. We see God doing this in conversion. Take for instance what Jesus did through the Apostle Paul. He was once an enemy of Christ and the Gospel. But when Jesus came to Paul with healing, He opened Paul’s spiritual eyes to show him that he needed a Savior and that Jesus was that Savior. He unstopped Paul’s spiritually deaf ears to the Gospel. Paul went on to sing the praises of Jesus as he spread the Gospel on his many missionary journeys.

Jesus brings each one of us this healing when He brings us to faith. He does this to the infant by rebirth in baptism. He does this to the adult through the Gospel. We who by nature had only a dirge to sing as we made our way through this life on the path to hell because of our sins, now by the Gospel have a new song to sing! Forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Having given healing through His Gospel, Christ also gives us strength for our journey. Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." This too God works through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Right now, the Holy Spirit is at work through His word is strengthening your faith for this journey to the Promised Land. Through His Word He reassures you that your sins are forgiven. He came and paid your debt to God Himself. And this same Christ will come again to take you from this wasteland to Himself in heaven. Christ brings healing on our journey.

When we take trips we probably don’t give safety as much thought as we should. But imagine taking the car you have now on a trip from downtown Baghdad to Jerusalem. This road will take you through Baghdad, Western Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. How safe would you feel in your pick-up or minivan? That is a dangerous part of the world. You’d want to be assured of safe travel if you were ever to take that trip.

We need protection on the Highway of Holiness don’t we. There are many threats we face - attacks from predators lurking in the tall grass. Peter writes of the great foe who means to harm us, “your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter5:8) This is a very real enemy who is very serious about overthrowing your faith in Jesus. He will use any means necessary to try and devour your faith. Now if we attempt to engage this enemy and defeat him by ourselves we will fail miserably. Eve in her perfection could not withstand the devil’s temptations. Peter who traveled with Jesus could not withstand the pressures of the world and denied Jesus. Paul writes, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12) We are no match for the devil, in our pride we will fall if we try to stand on our own two feet. But praise be to God that He who is for us is greater than he who is against us. On our journey Christ brings us protection.

Christ came to prepare the Way. He Himself is the Way to heaven. Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) This road that Isaiah speaks of, is Jesus. A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. The unbeliever will not be on this road, because he has rejected Jesus. But this road is a safe road. Even a fool is safe on this road. The guardrails of the Gospel protect him from going off into the ditch.

On this road to Highway of Holiness, Christ protects us. The lion and ferocious beast cannot get up on the Highway of Holiness. Christ grants safe travel to all His believers. Jesus also spoke of this. Of His sheep Jesus says, "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.” (John 10:28-29) Jesus paid for our souls with His blood, His very life. He is not about to leave us unprotected. But the redeemed shall walk there. This is you! He who loved you enough that He would die for you has promised to be with you always and provide you with protection from predators. Through His Word and His Sacraments, Jesus protects us.

So you see, Jesus supplies us with everything we need on this journey. The water that quenches our spiritual thirst, the strength to keep going, and protection from all that seeks to harm us. And Jesus supplies us with all these blessings in His Means of Grace - the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Our text then closes with some very glorious words. Because of all that Christ has done for us and daily continues to do for us on our journey through this life, we have joy. Joy as we enter the gate to life eternal in heaven. Close your eyes and envision yourself after this long, hard journey entering the golden city, the New Jerusalem. Gates of pearl and jasper, city streets of pure gold. This is the promise land Jesus came to give you. By His perfect life and innocent death we are redeemed and given this gift of God’s grace, having been called to faith. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Isaiah 11:1-10 "The Gospel According to Isaiah: II) God's Kingdom is Worth Waining For"

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Isaiah 11:1-10
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

II) God’s Kingdom is Worth Waiting For
- It’s humble beginnings
- Ruled in righteousness
- Brings peace and safety

Dear fellow redeemed who are eagerly awaiting the second Advent of our Savior Jesus,
It’s worth the wait. There are few things in life that we really feel like they are worth the wait. In this age of instant gratification, 24-7 shopping, and the interenet, it seems like we are so impatient with things that if we have to wait 5 minutes in line for a meal that we’ve waiting far too long. Though they said those chairs ordered on Cyber-Monday would take 5 to 10 days to get from Oakland to your house, still it seems like it should be able to get here faster than that.

Jesus knew we would have trouble waiting - especially waiting for His second Advent on Judgment Day. For this reason He reminds us constantly to stay spiritually awake and alert, “lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” (Lk 21:34) Likewise, His Apostles, Paul and Peter, exhort us to stay spiritually awake and alert, watching for His second coming because the return of Jesus on the Last Day will be worth the wait! As we continue our series on the Gospel according to Isaiah, let us consider how waiting for the Kingdom of God is worth the wait. We begin by examining its humble beginnings.

Most of you are probably familiar with Christmas Tree that is known as “the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.” It comes from the classic animated Christmas special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown, who is depressed that everyone seems to have forgotten about the true meaning of Christmas, has to buy a Christmas tree. The one he purchases is the last one in the tree lot - a scrawny evergreen tree only a couple of feet high, with about 4 branches. It is so pathetic that it can only hold one ornament on it. Thus, scrawny, sickly looking Christmas trees are now referred to as “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees.” When we are searching for Christmas trees we usually try to avoid Charlie Brown Christmas Trees for our house. We want a healthy looking tree with broad, healthy branches. Not a humble, scrawny tree.

As Isaiah begins to describe the Kingdom of the promised Messiah, Jesus, in our text the picture he paints is something similar to a Charlie Brown tree. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah is here speaking of the royal family tree of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. It was through Jesse’s son, David, that the promised Messiah, the King of kings, would eventually come. But in the 700 years from Isaiah to Jesus, that royal line would be chopped down. And by the days of the beginning of the New Testament era there was nothing but a stump left of Jesse’s royal family tree. No descendant of Jesse’s son David was sitting on the throne in Jerusalem.

Yet Isaiah prophecies that from that stump a little shoot would come forward. While it wouldn’t seem like much to the casual passer by, there was life coming from this stump. From the roots of Jesse, from his family tree, a royal branch would grow. That shoot, that branch is King David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ.

Like a shoot or a branch, Jesus’ beginnings were quite humble. He was born in relative obscurity. His first bed was a feeding trough for animals. His mother and step-father were insignificant no-bodies from Nazareth. His life was quite humble as well. His followers largely consisted of uneducated fishermen and outcasts of society. He had no place to lay His head and call His own. When He was placed on trial for crimes He never committed, there was no one to defend Him and speak up for His innocence. And His death was the death of a criminal, nailed to a cross.

Yet this shoot and branch from the stump of Jesse, with such humble beginnings, would be exalted to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Angels would worship Him and bow before Him. Almighty God the Father would seat Him at His right hand - a place of authority and prestige. And this Shoot and Branch from the stump of Jesse will one day return, raise the dead to life, and judge all people.

God’s Kingdom is worth the wait. His Kingdom will come in power on the last day, but right now His Kingdom is ruling the hearts of His believers. And right now it seems pretty humble. God uses humble means like His Word to set up His throne and rule in the hearts of men. He uses humble means like water and His word to convert sinners. He uses humble means like bread and wine to come and give the body and blood of His Son. Even the members of the Kingdom seems pretty humble. Paul writes that, “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor 1:26) The symbol of our salvation is a humble wooden cross on which our Savior died.

While the Church is not much to look at right now, oh how the glory of God’s coming Kingdom is worth the wait! Soon the Day is coming when “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor 15:53) The Day is coming when we will all be like Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 Jn 3:2) The Day is coming when Jesus shall take us to the glorious kingdom in heaven where we shall join the angels in praising the Lamb that was slain to save us! Though the Kingdom has humble beginnings like our Savior King, it’s ultimate arrival will be well worth the wait!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have leaders that made the right decision every single time? Wouldn’t it be nice to know without a doubt that our representatives, senators, judges, and presidents were all above corruption? Not gunna happen. As long as we are ruled by sinful men there will be mistakes and corruption by our leaders. We see that was the case even when we examine the royal line that came from Jesse. Jesse’s great-grandson Rehoboam is but one example. When he took over the throne of his father, Solomon, the elders of Israel told Rehoboam to be lenient with the people and they would be loyal to him. But Rehoboam’s young friends told him to be rougher on the people than his father was so that they respect him. The result? Under Rehoboam’s rule the united kingdom of Israel split into two separate kingdoms.

Because of sin, we will never have a perfect ruler in the kingdoms of this world. However, things are much, much different in the Kingdom of God! King Jesus is the perfect king because He rules the Kingdom of God in perfect righteousness. The Holy Spirit rests on Him and gives Him the Spirit of wisdom and understanding - intellectually Jesus is superior to all others. Jesus has the Spirit of counsel and might - He forms the right conclusions and has the ability to carry them out. He has the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD - everything Jesus does stems from His knowledge, love, and respect of the LORD and His will. Jesus is the perfect King.

Jesus’ doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t go by externals. He delights in those who love the LORD. His judgments are always right and fair. He is on the side of the poor in spirit and meek of the earth. We see this especially when King Jesus laid down His life to save those who could not save themselves. But on the other hand, He is against the wicked, unbelieving world. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16)

While in this world we must live with the consequences of sinful decisions that were made, we know that right now Jesus is ruling His Church in righteousness and faithfulness. He is doing the perfect thing for His Church and will be faithful in keeping every promise God has made in His Word. He is doing the perfect thing for you - to humble you and to keep you faithful to Him. And when Jesus returns on the Last Day, it will be the end of all sinful decisions and consequences. King Jesus will rule us in righteousness forever in heaven. The Kingdom of God is worth the wait!

In the closing verses of our text, Isaiah uses some striking picture language. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...the cow and the bear shall graze...” These are things we would never see in this world. The wolf would normally find the lamb easy prey. The bear would love to feast on the cow, rather than grazing together with it. Yet Isaiah speaks of animals that would otherwise be enemies, dwelling together in peace and safety. What Isaiah is expressing here is the peace and safety that the Shoot of Jesse would restore. This is what it was like in Paradise, before the fall into sin. All of God’s creatures dwelt in peace and safety. There was nothing to fear because there was no sin and no death. A little child could safely do a cattle drive with wolves, leopards, and lions - without his parents fearing for his life.

While Paradise was lost because of sin, Jesus came to restore Paradise. He came to remove the curse of sin and the sting of death. Jesus came to bring peace and safety. But this could only come by defeating those enemies which threaten. He had to defeat sin by taking our load and debt of sin on Himself and putting it to death in His body. He had to defeat death by Himself dying and rising from it on the third day. He had to defeat the devil by being tempted as we are, but never falling into sin like we do.

Our King engaged in battle and emerged victorious on Easter Sunday. He brought peace and safety. Through Jesus we are now at peace with God, we have been reconciled to Him. In Jesus we are now safe - the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” In Jesus, Paradise has been restored. Through the knowledge of the LORD, through faith in the LORD, we have peace and safety. Our sin has been removed, Jesus has overcome death and promised us the victory in Him, and in Jesus the Devil cannot harm us.

But there still are threats, aren’t there. The chief threat is within each of us. Our sinful flesh which doesn’t not want to be full of the knowledge of the LORD. Our sinful nature despises preaching and the word. Our sinful nature that wants to obey the devil rather than our Savior God. Being rid of our sinful nature when Jesus returns will be one of the greatest joys of heaven. Then nothing will be able to hurt or destroy us. We will live in perfect peace and safety forever. But until that day we must daily put off our old man and all his sinful desires, and put on our new man of faith. Make use of the tools God has given you. Listen to, read, learn His Word. Make regular use of Lord’s Supper by which our King Jesus gives us His body and blood to strengthen our faith and reassure us that our sins have all been paid for. Stay spiritually alert and awake, for the Kingdom is coming soon and it is well worth the wait! May God ever help us to this end. Amen!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25 "The Birth Announcement of Jesus of Nazareth: 1) Name: JESUS 2) Parents: THE VIRGIN BIRTH

Midweek Advent Series:
The Birth Announcement of Jesus of Nazareth
I. Name: JESUS (Click for Audio)
II. Parents: THE VIRGIN BIRTH (Click for Audio)

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is 9:6
In the name of that Child which has been born unto us, and that Son which has been given unto us, grace and peace be multiplied to each one of you in His name!
Everybody enjoys getting baby announcements, right? It is a time of such joy and excitement. Someone you know had been expecting a baby and now the announcement arrives to let you know that the bundle of joy has arrived! Was it a boy or a girl? What did they name him or her? How much did the baby weigh and how long was the baby? These are all things you typically find on a baby announcement. After we sent Abigail’s announcement out someone wrote back to us, excited, yet still wanting to know how much she weighed and how long she was.

In this season of Advent we are gearing up to celebrate a birth of a very special baby Boy. If you were to receive a birth announcement about this Child’s birth, what would it say? What was His name? Who are the parents? When was He born? What were His dimensions? Tonight we want to consider the first two parts of the birth announcement for Jesus of Nazareth and consider the name given to the Child and who His parents are. To guide us this evening we turn to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter one, beginning with the eighteenth verse:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

So far the Word of God. May God send us His Holy Spirit and strengthen our faith through His Word!

Immediately after a couple learns they are going to be parents, they begin the name game. They try to think of good boy names and good girl names for their child. And think of how important this choice will be! This is the name that will be with this person for their whole life. Obviously parents want to be careful in their choice. Parents will try to avoid a name that has a negative connotation associated with it. Most parents will not want to name their child “Jezebel” or “Judas” because of the awful things we know about them. Other names parents will want to avoid are ones with bad meanings. For instance you wouldn’t want to name your child “Ichabod” because the name means “inglorious.” (What a way to start out your life!) Other names are just too important to pass along to our children - like there is too much to live up to. For instance, you don’t find many baby boys being named Israel or Moses, simply because of the greatness associated with those names.

So when we get those baby announcements in the mail we are interested to find out what name the parents chose for their child. Sometimes we wonder why that name was chosen. For instance, when Zacharias and Elizabeth had their baby boy, all their friends and relatives assumed the boy would take his father’s name or a name from the family. They were surprised to hear that both Elizabeth and Zacharias demanded their son be named John - the name which the angel Gabriel told Zacharias to give to his son. And the meaning of the name is quite fitting. The name means “Jehovah is gracious.” And how gracious the LORD was to Zacharias and Elizabeth giving them a son in their old age. But more than that, how gracious the LORD was in giving them a son was to be the forerunner to the Savior of the World!

But as we receive the birth announcement we see the name chosen for that Baby boy born on Christmas Eve is “Jesus.” It probably was not an unusual name for boys in Judea or Galilee. You see the name “Jesus” is the Greek version of the name “Joshua” - an Old Testament hero. There would have, no doubt, been countless Jewish parents who wanted their son to bear the name of “Joshua.” It’s meaning is wonderful - “Jehovah saves” - and the name has a great association with it, the man who led the Children of Israel from the Wilderness into the Promised Land of Canaan.

But when the angel appears to Joseph and tells him to name the Child “Jesus” it is even more fitting for this Baby Boy. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” You see, from God’s perspective, Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t named after Joshua of the Old Testament, but Joshua of the Old Testament was named in anticipation of this child who would be born. Jesus really is “Jehovah saves.” Jesus would be Jehovah who would save His people from their sins. He would die on the cross as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The Old Testament hero Joshua would also be a picture of Jesus who leads us from this Wilderness of Sin into the Promised Land of Heaven.

The name on this birth announcement really is the perfect name for this Baby Boy. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Only in the name of Jesus are our sins forgiven and are we reconciled unto God in heaven. Only in the name of Jesus are our prayers heard before the Father in heaven. He is the only Savior. The Apostle Paul writes of His name, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” (Phil 2:9-10)


Another piece of important information on a birth announcement card is who the parents are. The parents are delighted to announce the birth of their child and they want you to share in their joy. But imagine getting a birth announcement where only the name of the mother was listed and no father. What would you be left to imagine? Wouldn’t you imagine that this child was conceived out of wedlock and that the father of the child is not involved in the baby’s life? That only the mother is left to care for this child? What other conclusions would you be left with?

The news about his fiancee led Joseph to the same basic conclusions. Mary was pregnant and he knew for a fact that he was not the father. The Old Testament custom with betrothals was that when a Jewish man and Jewish woman became engaged the were to be considered married, though they were not yet to live together as husband and wife - as was the case with Mary and Joseph. To break off the betrothal was considered the same as breaking a marriage.

So for Joseph to hear that Mary was pregnant and he was not the father left Joseph with only one conclusion, Mary had cheated on him. As a just man, he was considering the right thing to do. She had been unfaithful to him, she had broken their betrothal, yet in love he did not want to make a public spectacle of her and put her to shame. So he thought it would be best to quietly dissolve the betrothal and each would go their separate ways.

But as he was thinking about what to do, the truth about the Child in Mary’s womb was revealed to him. In a dream, an angel of the Lord told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (v20) Something unheard of had happened to Mary, she was pregnant but she was still a virgin. She had not been unfaithful to Joseph. While she was the mother of this Child, He had no earthly father. The Child was of the seed of the woman, but not of the seed of man. The Child had been conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Child that was growing within her was true God!

This is the Virgin Birth which God had prophesied 700 years earlier through the mouth of His servant Isaiah, “‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (v23) This Child is Immanuel, He is God with us. He is true God and true Man. He is God with us - on our side to save us.

All this was a fulfillment of the promise God had made right after sin and death entered the world. Just after Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and brought sin and death into the world, God made this promise to Satan, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15) The Serpent crusher was to come from the Seed of the woman. Joseph’s fiancee was that woman and Jesus was that Seed of the woman. That Child growing in Mary’s womb was the Serpent crusher that believers had been waiting 4,000 years for! Finally, the Savior was going to be born!

What a beautiful birth announcement for us to receive in God’s Word! No picture on the cover of our bulletin can properly capture the true beauty of this birth announcement. The name of the child shall be Jesus because He saves us from our sins. The Father of this Child is God and the Child’s mother is the Virgin Mary. He is Immanuel - God with us to save ! All praise be to our Savior God! Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Isaiah 2:1-5 "The Gospel According to Isaiah: I. God's Kingdom is Coming"

Audio of the Sermon

Isaiah 2:1-5 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (ESV)

Theme: I. God’s Kingdom is Coming
- An exalted Kingdom
- A Kingdom for all people
- A Kingdom of peace

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
What do you know about the Old Testament prophets? Seems like there were a lot of them, doesn’t it. Some prophets are only spoken of once or twice in the Scriptures. Other prophets are very prominent in the Old Testament, like Isaiah, Elijah, and Jeremiah. All of them had a difficult calling. God called them to bring a message to His people and usually His people didn’t want to listen to what He had to say. In fact, when the LORD called Jeremiah to be His prophet He told Him at the beginning that no one was going to listen to him, yet the message needed to be spoken. Thus His prophets were not the most popular in the land. Times were so rough for Elijah that he seriously thought he was the last believer on the planet and now the King of Israel was out to kill him too.

Whoever the prophet of the LORD was, he was a prophet because he had a message from the LORD for His people. They were the preachers of the Old Testament. Most of them preached the Law and repentance to God’s people when they rebelled against Him. In the very first chapter of Isaiah, we find this prophet of the LORD bringing the Law hard and heavy to the people of Judah. They needed the Law because they were a wicked and rebellious people. They mixed their worship of the one true God, with the worship of the false gods of the world. Through Isaiah, the LORD told His people that He was sick of their sacrifices and offerings. The LORD went so far as to say that His soul hated their new moons and appointed feasts (1:14). And now because of their sin and unrepentance the LORD, through Isaiah, told Judah that He would not look on them to help them nor listen to their prayers. Imagine being the man that God chose to be the bearer of that message!

Yet, Isaiah did not only preach the Law. When he did preach Law, it was to call the people of God to repentance and faith in God for the forgiveness of sins. Isaiah was also a prophet of the Gospel. Isaiah told of the good news of forgiveness and the undeserved love of God in the coming Messiah. Though Isaiah lived nearly 700 years before Jesus was born, no other Old Testament prophet has so much to say about the person and work of Jesus than Isaiah. For this reason Isaiah is often referred to as the Fifth Evangelist - along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. From the virgin birth to being wounded for our transgressions, the prophet Isaiah has a great deal to say about the redemptive work of our Savior Jesus.

This Sunday we are going to begin an eleven week series on the book of Isaiah entitled, “The Gospel According to Isaiah.” If the Lord so wills it, during these coming weeks we will look at the various Gospel promises found in the book of Isaiah. The Gospel promise we want to examine this morning is the promise that God’s Kingdom is coming. It is an exalted Kingdom, a Kingdom for all people, and a Kingdom of peace. As we begin this series we, we ask for God’s blessing. We pray that He would be with us and increase our faith in Jesus as our Savior from sin. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.” Amen.

Our history books tell of many great kingdoms of the world. Less than 200 years after Isaiah served as a prophet, the kingdom of Babylon would rise to prominence as King Nebuchadnezzar and his army would defeat many nations, including Judah. After Babylon, the Persian Kingdom rose to power, then the Greek Kingdom, and then the mighty Roman Empire came into existence, ruling over much of Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa. In more modern history one of the great kingdoms of this world was the British Empire. So large was the British Empire that it was the case that the sun never set on the British Empire. Somewhere in the world, the sun was shining on a British Colony.

As great as all of these kingdoms were at one time, what do they all have in common? None of them are in existence today. Though Great Britain exists, there is little, if any, Empire lift. All of these once mighty kingdoms have crumbled. Yet towering over the wrecks of time is the kingdom of which Isaiah speaks of in our text. The Kingdom of God, or more specifically, the Kingdom of the Messiah. His is an exalted Kingdom.

Verse 2 of our text, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be establish as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills.” Isaiah speaks of something coming about in “the latter days.” What the LORD is showing Isaiah is the Kingdom that Christ would establish. The mountain and the hill Isaiah sees is the one on which the Temple of the LORD was built in Jerusalem - Mount Zion. While Mount Zion is not the highest mountain peak in Palestine, in the latter days Isaiah sees it lifted up higher than all other mountains of the world.

What Isaiah sees is the exalted Kingdom of God, the Church. In the Old Testament the LORD would meet with His people and they would worship Him at His Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The Temple was a picture of Christ. Christ comes to His people and sets up His throne in their hearts. The Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

This exalted mountain that Isaiah sees is the Church, it is Christ ruling in the hearts of His people. There is no kingdom higher than the Kingdom of God. No earthly kingdom and no spiritual kingdom is as high and lifted up as the Kingdom of God. None of the false religions of this world can atone for our sins. All those false religions can do is tell you how hard you must work to get yourself in heaven, but can never promise heaven. They cannot promise it because you cannot earn eternal life. If we are to be saved eternally, God must do it for us. For “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Cor 5:19). God was at work in Christ to forgive us all our sins and make our relationship right with Him. In Christ God does not count our sins against us. This makes the Kingdom of God the highest of all the mountains and lifts it up higher than all the hills.

In the church basement we have a nice laminated map of the world. What will you find if you study that map? Besides the shape of land masses you will find boarders. Boarders which limit the size and scope of the various nations of the world. While on nation may invade another and try to expand its boarders, the kingdoms of this world will always be limited. Not so with the coming kingdom of God that Isaiah saw. The kingdom of the Christ will be for all people and all nations.

The end of verse 2 and beginning of verse 3, “All the nations shall flow to it, and many people shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” The Kingdom of God is not just made up of descendants of Abraham, it is made up of all people of all the nations of the earth. There are Gentiles of German descent, Gentiles of British descent, Gentiles of Nigerian, Indian, and Chinese descent. Jews and Gentiles alike flow to the Kingdom of God.

Why do all nations flow to the Kingdom of God? They are drawn by the Word of God. They want God to teach them His ways and they want to walk in His ways. Is this not faith? Is this not what we desire? This is the Holy Christian Church that Isaiah sees. The Church which has a living and active faith created by the Holy Spirit. The members of the Kingdom of God are fed and nourished spiritually by the Word of God.

This is why Christ commissioned His disciples to go into all the World with His saving Gospel message. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He had died for the sins of the whole world - for every single man, woman, and child that had ever been born our ever would be born - and Jesus wanted all the world to know what He had done for them. “Make disciples of all the nations,” and,“Preach the Gospel to all creatures,” He told His disciples. There is forgiveness and salvation for all in Christ.

And on Pentecost the message went out. Remember how on Pentecost there were men from different corners of the world hearing in their own language “the wonderful works of God?” (Acts 2:11) This was the very thing that Isaiah saw some 700 years earlier when God revealed to Him, “For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” This happened literally after Pentecost when the Gospel went out from Jerusalem to all nations. But it continues to happen today when the spiritual Zion and Jerusalem, the Church, spreads the Kingdom of God as it spreads the Gospel. There are no boarders in the Kingdom of God. It is for all nations and all people.

In less than a month, we will rejoice to hear once again the message of the angels on the night of Jesus’ birth. We will hear those familiar words from the multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.” (Lk 2:14) Some have misunderstood the angels’ message to mean that Jesus came to bring peace on earth. If that were the case, isn’t it odd that Jesus Himself says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Mt 10:34) The Word of Jesus will cause divisions in homes between family members. No, as long as there is sinners on earth there will be no peace.

While Jesus did not come to bring peace on earth, He did come to bring peace. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives is a peace that this world knows nothing about. It is the peace of sins forgiven. It is the peace of a conscience freed from guilt and shame. It is peace between God and man. All through Jesus. Through His death, which paid for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead, we have true, lasting, eternal peace. Another and possibly better translation of what the angels said on the night Jesus was born is this, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (ESV) Peace for the people of God.

This is precisely what Isaiah saw in the coming Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not involved in physical confrontations and warfare. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace where weapons of warfare - swords and spears - are beaten into agricultural tools - plowshares and pruning hooks. This is the peace that Jesus brings. The peace of sins forgiven and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

When we talk with one another we hear each others words, we don’t see each others words. But when God talked with His prophets, like Isaiah, they saw His words. And what a sight these words of the LORD to Isaiah must have been! Isaiah saw a coming kingdom that was exalted above all others. He saw a kingdom which would be a blessing for all the people of the earth as God sent a Savior for all people. And he saw a kingdom of peace. May we ever continue to go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths! May Christ continue to rule us by His gracious good favor! Amen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Luke 12:15-21 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

I) In planning for himself, he forgot his neighbor
II) In reckoning his goods, he forgot the Giver
III) In providing for his body, he forgot his soul
IV) In counting on time, he forgot eternity

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
“Relax, eat, drink, be merry!” There in only a few words, the Rich Man in our parable has pretty much summarized this American holiday of Thanksgiving, hasn’t he? When we think of Thanksgiving these are memories that come to mind first, aren’t they? We certainly think of eating - the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pies. Drinking is usually involved too - cider for the kids and some wine for the grown ups. Be merry - yes, there is usually much merriment as families gather together and enjoy each others company. And relaxing? What is Thanksgiving without that post turkey nap. About the only thing that the rich man didn’t mention in our parable is the football game!

Isn’t it interesting that when we think of Thanksgiving THESE are some of the first things that come to mind? “Relax, eat, drink, be merry?” Rather, why isn’t going to the LORD’s house the first thing we think about? Why isn’t praising God for the many undeserved blessings He has showered on us, the main association we have with Thanksgiving? Why are so many churches across our nation dark and empty on Thanksgiving Day?

In our text Jesus is not speaking against relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry. In and of itself there is nothing wrong or sinful with that part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Nor is Jesus condemning riches and wealth, in and of itself. We know many of God’s people in the Bible were quite wealthy - Abraham, Job, and King Solomon, to name a few. What Jesus is addressing is the attitude of the heart about these things. The Rich Man in our parable thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. He had fallen into the idolatry of covetousness - the sinful desire of “stuff.” Covetousness which, as it so often does, gives way to forgetfulness. Let us therefore on this Thanksgiving Day seek to learn from the four big mistakes of the rich farmer. May God help us to listen to His Word and apply it to our lives. Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it! Amen.

As Jesus wishes to teach us about how dangerous covetousness is, He gives us the lesson of the rich farmer. Jesus says that his land produced plentiful. It was a good year - no it was a great year for the rich farmer. It was such a good year that this rich man did not have enough space to store all of his crops. “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” he asked himself. What a blessed problem to have!

What a bountiful year! More than enough to continue his rich way of life and then some! What should he do? If he were to ask you what to do, what would you recommend? Well, here is the solution he came up with, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” This seems to make great business sense, doesn’t it? Tear down those store barns to make space for bigger ones.

Once his barns are torn and bigger ones built then he will have it made! “I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Take it easy! You’ve earned it! You’ve worked hard now its time to enjoy the fruit of your labors!

So what is the mistake this rich farmer made? The heart of the rich farmer’s problem WAS his heart - the attitude of his heart about all that he had. We see the sinful attitude of his heart in the first person pronoun that is repeated again and again. Look at the number of times the rich farmer uses the word “I” in verses 17-19. I counted six times. “” This rich man thought his life was all about the abundance of his possessions. And now that he had an abundance of his possessions he thought he had the life.

The first big mistake this rich man made is that in planning for himself he forgot about his neighbor. He had all this wealth and the only thing he thought about was himself. This is a surefire symptom of covetousness. Never once did he think about sharing his bounty with those in need. Never once did he consider those whose barns were empty and whose cupboards were bare.

Paul writes to the Romans that the entire second table of the Law, that is the 4th through the 10th Commandment, are “all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:9-10) The only love the rich man had was for himself - he forgot about his neighbor. He loved only himself and his possessions.

Imaging for a moment if this had been the thought process of the Son of God. “I am the Son of God. I have all power in heaven and on earth. I can make riches. And yet there are sinners condemned to hell for what they themselves did. What shall I do? I shall stay in heaven and let them reap the eternal reward for their disobedience. I’ll relax and be merry in heaven for eternity.” Thanks be to Jesus that this is NOT what He did. No, rather in love He gave all that up, became one of us, took on the form of a servant, and died the death of a criminal. All so that we could share in what He had from eternity - the joys of heaven as a gift of His grace. Thanks be to Jesus that He did not forget about us!

Hymn 430:6

One of my top five favorite movies of all time is a Civil War era movie called “Shenandoah,” staring Jimmy Steward. In the movie, Jimmy Steward’s character, Charlie Anderson, is a proud, wealthy farmer that doesn’t want to get wrapped up in the Civil War - which is going on in the back yard of his Shenandoah, Virgina farm. Much less does Charlie Anderson want his 6 strong boys to get involved in the war. To understand the pride of this man, one need only listen to the table prayer he would say before every meal - “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, Amen.”

Charlie Anderson had the same problem that the rich farmer in our text had, didn’t he? In reckoning or assessing his goods, he forgot the Giver. He forgot that without God giving the sunshine, the rain, the soil, and the seed - he would have nothing. No seed to sow and no harvest to reap. He forgot that God causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and on the unjust. This mistake is often made in times of prosperity. When things are difficult it causes us to get on our knees and turn to the LORD in prayer. However, when things are going well and our cupboards are full we tend to forget to give thanks to the Giver.

God knew this would be the case for so many. That is why He warned the Children of Israel not to forget Him when they entered the promised land. This is also why Agur wrote in Proverbs 30, “Give me neither poverty nor riches -- Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the LORD?" Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov 30:8-9)

So have we forgotten the Giver of every good and perfect gift? Of course not, we think. After all here we are - in church - on Thanksgiving to give thanks to God! But how many times have we sat down for a meal and behaved no different than a hog at the feed trough. After all the hog doesn’t thank God for the meal he is about to eat. How many times have we looked at our paycheck and reckoned it all for ourselves without giving a thought to giving back to the LORD who gave us the ability to work and a job to work at? How often do we forget the Giver with our offerings? How often do we only give God what is leftover after we have gotten everything we want? May God forgive us for our selfishness in reckoning for ourselves and forgetting the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Hymn 430:7
The third mistake this rich farmer made was that in providing for his body, he forgot his soul. This is a most costly mistake. He thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. And now, having an abundance of possessions he thought he had the life. His neighbors probably thought he had the life too. “Look at those big barns and all that grain. That rich farmer has the life!” Externally, everything was looking up for this farmer. But internally, his soul was lifeless. Jesus was not ruling in his heart, but he was his own god and his possessions were his god.

Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mk 8:36) What does it matter if my barns and bank account are full, but I have no faith in Jesus Christ? If I attain the American dream, but have no Savior - what does it matter in the end? Jesus emphasized this same point to Martha when she was mad that she was getting dinner ready while Mary was sitting at Jesus feet to hear His word. "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Lk 10:41-42) Martha was consumed with earthly matters, Mary was consumed with spiritual matters. Martha was attending to the needs of the body, Mary was attending to the needs of her soul. And which one is more important? The needs of the soul.

Jesus, His Word, and His Sacrament are that one thing that is needful - that good part that cannot be taken away from us. The one thing that cannot be stolen from us and that does not rust and decay. Only Jesus can remove sin from our hearts. Only Jesus can give us a right relationship with God. Only Jesus can give us the treasures of heaven. While we do need to provide for the needs of our body, we dare not forget the needs of our soul! May God help us to always to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!

Hymn 430:8
“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry!” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” As the rich farmer surveyed his wealth he thought he had it made. He thought he could take an early retirement and not have to worry about working ever again. He thought he had the rest of his life planned out for him. What he forgot is that his time on this earth is not in his hands. And in this parable, God told him that very evening his life would come to an end. Then who would all those riches belong to? In counting on time, he forgot about eternity. Death came upon him as a thief in the night and all his possessions could do nothing to help him.

We easily fall into the same trap, don’t we. Especially when life is going good. We plan on working until we are in our 50's or 60's, retire, and live out our days on this earth until we are 80 or 90. We easily forget about eternity. If things in life are going well, we may even begin to think like this rich farmer and think THIS is heaven on earth. We go so far as to think that our time is in our hands, rather than our time of grace on this earth being in God’s hands. As James writes, Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

We did not chose when our lives would begin and we dare chose when our lives will end. We must leave these things in the wise hands and direction of our heavenly Father. What we dare not do is forget about eternity. Rather than forgetting let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul to the Colossians, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4) In our baptisms and by faith the Holy Spirit as united us with Christ. His righteousness becomes our own. His death becomes our death to sin. His life becomes our life. Therefore if we are united with Christ by faith, let us keep our hearts and minds focused on those things which are above.

May we all take this warning of Jesus to be on guard against covetousness, lest we make the mistakes of the rich farmer in thinking that our life consists in the abundance of our earthly possessions. Rather than seeking to store up treasures for ourselves, let us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to be rich toward God. To seek first His kingdom in our lives. To set our minds on things above. To not forget our neighbor, not forget the Giver of every good and perfect gift, not forget about the needs of our souls, and not forget about eternity. On this Thanksgiving Day and always, may we bless the LORD in all that we say and do! In Jesus name, Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Colossians 1:13-20 "And Crown Him Lord of ALL!"

Audio of the Sermon

Colossians 1:13-20 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. (ESV)

- Because of who He is
- Because of what He has done

Dear fellow subjects of the King of kings, fellow redeemed by the blood of the King, grace and peace to you,
“Behold your King!” Those words of Pontius Pilate ring in our ears on Good Friday when we consider what the people were beholding in Jesus. Jesus told Pilate that He was a King, but never during His earthly life did He look like a king. His followers were a bunch of uneducated fishermen. He certainly had no palace to live in - He didn’t even have a place to lay His head at night. He had no piece of land on this earth to rule over. That is why Pontius Pilate was so surprised to hear Jesus say He was a king. Pilate’s soldiers robed Jesus in purple, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and mockingly began to salute Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” When Jesus was crucified the torment continued. Over His cross Pilate had placed a sign describing His sentence which read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

“Behold your King!” Does this sound like the description of a man that you would want to call your King? Someone who was bloodied and beaten, nailed to a cross and dying? That seems like a King who is on the losing end of things. Yet what did the thief on the cross say to this bloodied, beaten man, who was nailed to a cross? “Remember me when you come into Your kingdom!” The repentant thief was looking on Jesus with eyes of faith. He saw in Jesus his Savior and King. He looked for a spiritual kingdom over which Jesus would rule and longed to be a member of His Kingdom. And that day the thief entered the eternal kingdom of Jesus in paradise.

“Behold your King!” How well do you know your King Jesus? Our text for this morning magnificently presents for us the preeminence or superiority of King Jesus. One thing that sticks out in our text is the number of times the Apostle Paul uses the word “all.” “All creation,” “all things,” “all the fulness of God,” and “reconcile to himself all things.” So let us on this Christ the King Sunday, and always, “Crown Jesus Lord of ALL!” We crown Him Lord of all because of who He is and because of what He has done. May the Kingdom of God come unto us by the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word. Amen.

Why was it again, that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was King? Because Jesus seemed nothing like any king Pilate had ever met of or read about. Jesus had no crown, no royal garments, no palace, no army, no loyal subjects fighting for Him, and above all else, He had no piece of real estate over which He ruled. But just because Jesus didn’t fit Pilate’s description of a king, doesn’t mean Jesus is not a King. He is a different kind of King. A King whose kingdom is not of this world. He is a King we crown Lord of all because of who He is.

First of all, King Jesus is true God. In verse 15 of our text we read that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. Unlike a painter or sculptor who can only recreate the external image of someone and not the true essence of the person, the writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is the “express image of God.” (Heb 1:3) Paul emphasizes this truth again in verse 19 when he writes, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Everything that God is, Jesus is. God is almighty, Jesus is almighty. God is all-knowing, Jesus is all-knowing. We crown Him Lord of all because He is true God.

Paul also says that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Paul here is not saying that the Son was the first to born to God the Father, like Mary brought forth her firstborn Son. Rather this use of the word “firstborn” describes His position in relation to all creation. It is typical in many families that the firstborn son is the son of privilege. In the Old Testament the eldest son would most often receive the birthright from his father. Paul explains the superiority of Jesus over all creation as the firstborn in verse 16 -“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.” Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He was actively involved in everything that was created. The Apostle John tells us that the Son is the Word by which all things came into being (Jn 1:3). All things, whether seen or unseen, whether man, animal, or angel - all were created by Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus.

Paul continues to amaze us about our King in verse 17, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” As the Son of God, Jesus is eternal. Before time was, Jesus is. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. And Jesus holds all of creation together. This is a really neat word picture of how Jesus is the glue that keeps everything from falling apart. Like a little boy who picks up a handful of snow and compacts it into a snowball, so Jesus holds all of creation together.

Like a salesman on TV, Paul continues as if to say, “But, wait, there’s more!” Verse 18, “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Not only is Jesus eternal, Creator, and in control of Creation, Jesus is also the head of the church. That means He is over the body of believers. He is her Head, her leader, her life. When the head of the church died on the cross and laid in the tomb, it looked like the church might die with it. But Jesus is superior over death as well! On the third day He showed that He is preeminent or the greatest in everything when He rose to life again.

“In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.” Jesus is very God of very God. He is of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Jesus truly is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Crown Him Lord of ALL because of who He is!

Yet as Jesus stood before Pilate on Good Friday, He did not look like the fulness of God was pleased to dwell in Him. Rather Jesus looked God forsaken. He did not look like the image of the invisible God. Rather Jesus looked like a defeated and dying man. But this, dear brothers and sisters, is what makes King Jesus so amazing and so worthy of our praise. There standing before Pilate was the eternal Son of God. There robed in purple, crowned with thorns, bruised and bleeding was the very one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created. While it looked like Jesus’ world was falling apart around Him, He is the one who was holding all of creation together.

Why would one who is so great, so powerful to be so humiliated? What Jesus was doing, He was doing for us. We needed to be rescued from the dominion of darkness. We all were enemies of God and members of the kingdom of Satan. We were all destined for hell and we had no one to blame but ourselves. But God was determined to rescue us. And so the Son of God became Man. The Word became flesh. The invisible God appeared in the person of Jesus to rescue us.

In order to rescue us He had to become one of us and take our place. Because we failed to obey the Commandments, Jesus had to keep them perfectly for us. He had to honor His father and mother, even though He was their Lord and God. He had to love His neighbor as Himself, even when His neighbor was spitting on Him and pounding nails into His hands and feet. And He had to love the LORD God will all of His heart, all of His soul, and all of His strength. Loving the LORD God meant obeying Him. Obeying His will even when Jesus knew it meant He would have to be whipped, slapped, mocked, crucified, and die.

Becoming one of us to take our place meant not only keeping the whole will and law of God in our place, Jesus also had to suffer for all of the wrongs which we had done. He had to endure the wrath of God over our disobedience and sin. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities.” (Is 53:5) This was the only way our sin could be forgiven and our guilt removed. Jesus had to remove it from us by taking it on Himself. He had to die as a consequence for our sin.

In verse 14 Paul writes, “In (Jesus) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” That word “redemption” is an old word from the slave market. It was the ransom price to set a slave free. We are all slaves of the devil and slaves of sin. Sin is what we served day and night - and there was nothing we could do to free ourselves from this brutal slave owner. But Jesus ransomed us. With the purchase price of His own blood, He bought our freedom through the forgiveness of sins. In Jesus we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The King of kings did all of this because He loved us. He did it to make peace between us and God. The last verse of our text Paul tells us that we who were at odds with God because of our sin and rebellion against Him, God reconciled. He made peace with us through the blood of the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross removed that enmity and hostility which separated us from God. Our sins were put to death in His body. Now through Jesus we are at peace with God. He is our Father and we His children. Has there ever been a King who was willing to do this for his subjects, let alone his enemies? Indeed, crown Him Lord of all because of what He has done for us!

Thanks be to God, who has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. By calling us to faith in Jesus He has made us members of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus has set up His throne in our hearts and rules us by His grace. What an amazing King we have! A King who rules over all creation! A King who rules over His Church. A King who loved us so much that He laid down His life to redeem us and deliver us from the dominion of darkness. Is there nothing our King cannot and will not do for us? Behold your King! Crown HIM Lord of ALL! Amen.