Sunday, January 30, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 "Look at what God has done!"


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1 Corinthians 1:26-31
- For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption -- 31 that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."

Theme: LOOK AT WHAT GOD HAS DONE
- Taken away any reason to boast
- Given us every reason to rejoice

Dear fellow fools made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, fellow redeemed,
“You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5) We are familiar with these tempting words of the Devil to our first parents. Eve was enticed by the idea that she was missing out on something and could possibly attain the position of being like God. Ever since the Devil has been putting forth this temptation to man - to be like God.

After the waters of the flood covered the whole earth, the only family left was the family of Noah. Noah’s family, obviously, all spoke the same language and this continued for their descendants after them. This unified language came to a head at the Tower of Babel. The people of Babel said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth.” (Gen 11:4) Those at the Tower of Babel conspired to make a name for themselves by reaching the heavens themselves. They wanted to be like God.

The temptation to be like God is a mighty one and the devil has many tools he uses to tempt us in this way. It can be that fruit which God has commanded not to eat. It can be pride that wants to make a name for himself. Natural man has no greater desire than to be like God. We see this also in any number of false doctrines that have corrupted hearts and minds. Take for instance the false teaching of “Decision Theology.” Decision theology teaches that we, of our own strength, are able to choose to come to faith in God. That is, man deciding what he will and will not believe. Work righteousness is also the work of the devil. Work righteousness teaches that we do something to earn God’s forgiveness and thus earn our salvation. That somehow our deeds are so great that God has to reward us and let us into heaven. This is sinful pride at it’s worst. It is man reaching to the heavens to make a name for himself.

But what do the Scriptures make known to us? Scripture tells us that it is not about all us. Luther rightly stated, in the explanation to the Third Article on the Holy Spirit - “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to Him; But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” It is God the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith. It is God who works our salvation. Let us this morning look at what God has done. By His will and work He has taken away any reason for us to boast and given us every reason to rejoice. May God the Holy Spirit bless us by His Word.

TAKEN AWAY ANY REASON TO BOAST
Say that God allows the world continues on for another 500 years. 500 years from now a school boy has to do a report on the culture of United States during the early 21st century. What would he write we value? Gathering research from archived magazines, newspapers, television ads, and internet pages he would learn all he needed to know about our nation and people. He would learn that our culture places great value on wealth, wisdom, power, fame, and pleasure. It is in these things that our society commits a great deal of time and energy.

In so many ways our culture is a mirror of the Greek culture in Paul’s day. The Greeks put a great deal of value in wisdom. The wisdom they pursued was that of philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates. We read in Acts that in Paul’s day “all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17:21) The Greeks also valued power and strength. It was Greek culture that gave birth to the olympic games several hundred years before Jesus’ birth. The Greeks also valued one’s station in life. The greater prestige, the greater fame. Our culture is not all that different. We speak of the pursuit of wisdom at our universities. We just about worship our athletes. And we all scramble to get close to someone who is famous or to have our own 15 minutes of fame.

These are things man glories in - wisdom, power, and fame or nobility as our text calls it. But as much wisdom as a wise man might have, how will that benefit him eternally? The university professor with his three best selling books and his PhD’s, what does all his wisdom get him? Is his wisdom going to aid him as he stands before Almighty God? Almighty God who put the stars in the sky and Himself created gravity?

Or take the Super Bowl athlete. We admire him so for his strength. We are in awe and wish we could run like him and catch a football like him. But as this athlete lays on his deathbed, his lungs gasping for that last bit of oxygen, will having been the MVP of the Super Bowl make him more ready to meet his Maker? Will the strength of this man mean anything to the God who with His might keeps all creation moving?

Or what about the movie star or musician? They may bring entertainment to our lives and millions of dollars to their sponsors, but will a fan club be something that God will take into consideration on Judgment Day? Will God say, “Come! Enter heaven! For you won an Oscar AND a Grammy!”

We place so much emphasis on them and glorify those who have wisdom, power, and fame. But God shows no partiality. God is not so easily swayed by things like we are. He shows no favoritism. When God looks upon man He sees only one thing. He sees sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) As highly as man may think is, as highly as he might value his accomplishments, before God he has nothing to boast about.

Paul would have us all reflect on who we were. Were we anything special? Did God call us to faith because of some special quality we had? “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” The Church has always been a pretty pathetic looking group of people. Few of us have anything the world would marvel at. No high profile jobs. Few, if any, highly educated in the wisdom of the world, with PhD’s or a Masters Degree. We are nothing special in the eyes of the world.

Our lack of anything keeps us from boasting of anything before God. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. God is not an elitist. He does not chose some for Himself because they are of such high pedigree. In fact much the opposite. The ones who have the least to boast of, He has chosen for Himself. Take a look at the thief on the cross, the adulterous woman, the man possessed by Legion, little Zaccheus, Matthew the tax collector, or those uneducated fishermen.Did any of them have a reason to boast before God? Did Jesus choose and call them because of some special quality? And yet these are the one Jesus called to follow Him. No man, NO MAN has any reason ever to boast before Him. As much as man wants to reach heaven all by himself, he is unable. Man has nothing which he can bring before God and say, “See, look what I have done. Aren’t You impressed, God?” Look at all that God has done and we see that we have no reason to boast about anything.

WE HAVE EVERY REASON TO REJOICE
So why are you a believer in Christ Jesus today? When I ask this question in Catechism class, I sometimes get the answer, “Because my parents are believers.” As if to say, that genetics played a role in their faith. It is true, God places people in our lives to carry out His calling. But remember, the reason you are a believer in Christ Jesus today has nothing to do with you. You have nothing to boast about. Rather it is solely His grace, His amazing, undeserved love that brought you to faith. In verses 26 and 27 of our text Paul uses the word “calling” and “chosen.” These are things that God did. GOD chose you from eternity to be His child. In time GOD called you to faith. And yes, He may have had you born to Christian parents whom He knew would bring you up in the Word of God and thereby bring you to faith. But this faith has nothing to do with your family’s heritage, but instead it has to do with God’s grace.

In verse 30 of our text Paul tells us more of God’s grace without ever using the word grace. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” What an amazing statement Paul is making here! Outside of the New Testament, I know of no other literature that speaks of someone as being “in” a person. But because of God we are in Christ Jesus. We are a part the eternal Son of God. Elsewhere Scripture speaks of the believers being the body of Christ. That is how intimately tied to Christ Jesus we are. You are IN Christ Jesus, and has been done OF GOD.

What does it mean to be “in Christ Jesus?” Well this too is quite amazing. In the eyes of the world we our fools. We are viewed as sort of bigots, who say that our Savior Jesus is the only way to heaven. We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in 6, 24-hour days. That is foolish. We are also weak. We confess that we sin often and are in need of forgiveness. Forgiveness that only Jesus gives through His death on the cross and resurrection. We are nothing, humbled, weak, and base.

But of God we are in Christ Jesus. HE has become for us wisdom. Wisdom that the world has no clue about. Paul wrote of this earlier - “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:20) Christ Jesus is our wisdom. We know who the true God is. We know Jesus is the only hope for eternal life. Thus even our pre-schoolers are wiser than many university professors. To we who are unrighteous nothings, Christ Jesus is our righteousness. To we who are unholy, Christ Jesus is our holiness. To we who are slaves to sin, Christ Jesus is our redemption. Without Christ Jesus we have none of this - no righteousness, no holiness, no redemption. But of God we are in Christ Jesus and we have every reason to rejoice. We who are nothing, have been chosen by God in His grace to be something and have been given everything. Faith, salvation, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, and heaven itself. It is because of GOD that we are in Christ Jesus. Just look at what God has done and we find every reason to rejoice!

Therefore dear fools, do not value things as the world values them. The wisdom of this world, the fame of this world it cannot hold a candle to the brilliance of the wisdom of God and the power of God that is in Christ Jesus. Look at what God has done. It was the Almighty God who by His grace has called us from darkness into His marvelous light. We who have nothing to boast about, have every reason to rejoice in God our Savior. As we look at what God has done for us we can rightly see a reason to boast. Boast in what God has done for us! “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” Glory be to God! AMEN!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Isaiah 9:1-4 "The Great Joy of the Son-Shine"

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Isaiah 9:1-4
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ISAIAH
Theme: The Great Joy of the Son-Shine

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
69 days. What have you done and gotten accomplished over the past 69 days? If my math is correct, 69 days before today would have been Tuesday, November 16. A lot has happened since November 16. Babies have been born and people have died. We’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s, and a two day blizzard! Christmas decorations have gone up and come down in the span of those 69 days. But can you imagine having gone those 69 days without seeing even one beam of sunlight? The only light having come from a dimly lit light bulb? Many of you may remember the account of those trapped Chilean miners this past summer and fall. For 69 days they were trapped 2,300 feet below the earth’s surface. For 69 days the only light they saw was the light that came from their light bulbs. How amazing the sun shine must have felt for those miners when they were finally rescued 69 days after being trapped!

But worse than spending 69 days without seeing the light of day, imagine spending a lifetime in darkness. No light to see where you are going. No light to brighten your day and fill it with joy and warmth. What a horrible existence that would be! What a hopeless condition to live one’s life in! Yet that is exactly the condition of every man, woman, and child born into this world. Scripture describes our natural existence as “darkness” and being spiritually blind. And if no one steps in to change that, it gets worse. Imagine spending an eternity in the outer darkness. Darkness that is blinding!

But when God brings someone to faith, when God brought you to faith in Jesus, He brought you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. The Apostle Paul writes of this in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) The source of light for the Christian believer is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus declares in John 8, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (Jn 8:12) Jesus is the light of the world. He is the light that entered this dark world of sin and death. He gives light to all who follow Him. As we conclude our series on “The Gospel According to Isaiah” we read of the promise of this light shining on the gloomy darkness of Galilee. Let us therefore consider the great joy of the Son-shine!

As our text begins there are some geographical names that are used which we may not be familiar with. First of all in verse one we hear of Zebulun and Naphtali. These are the names that were given to two sons of Jacob. The descendants of these two sons would go on to make-up two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. When the Children of Israel entered the promised land of Canaan, each of the tribes of Israel were given a portion of land for their people to live in. The land that was their portion was their families’ inheritance. For instance the sons of Judah were given the area around Jerusalem. The portion of land for the tribe of Zebulun was just west of the Sea of Galilee. The portion of land for the tribe of Napthali was on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee and also to the north.

Because of the location of the land which was their portion, they were very often on the front lines when an enemy attacked Israel. Any enemy attacking Israel from the North, would first have to go through the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali bringing death and destruction with them. This was never more true than when the Assyrian army attacked Israel. Led by King Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrians defeated the northern Kingdom of Israel and carried the people away in captivity to Assyria. Zebulun and Naphtali was a land of gloom and oppression. It was a land of darkness and without hope. Most of it was self-imposed by the people’s idolatry and rejection of the one true God. There was not a glimmer of hope in the land. They dwelt, as Isaiah writes, “in the land of the shadow of death.”

But Isaiah writes that all of that was going to change. A great light was going to shine upon them. A light that would bring great joy to the land and a reason to rejoice. What was that light that was going to shine on them? It was none other than the Light of the World. The SON was going to shine upon them. We heard in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 4) the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet...” The great light that was going to shine on them was Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the promised Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords, living and focusing His ministry on this area. First of all He was raised in Nazareth, and then He made Capernaum His home base for His ministry in Galilee.

This would be a cause of great joy for the people. The One they and all their forefathers had so eagerly awaited had arrived and was living in their midst! They have seen a great light! The light Jesus would bring would be the light of the Gospel and salvation. Jesus would bring the good news of sins forgiven. He would give them life and light. They could rejoice in this harvest of righteousness and salvation, as at the joy of harvest. Jesus would defeat an enemy greater than an invading army or Tiglath-Pileser. He would break the rod of their oppressor. He would overcome their enemy of the devil by never once giving into His temptations. He would overcome their enemy of death by rising to life on the third day after His crucifixion. And He would break the yoke of their burden by taking their sin on Himself and suffering the consequences of it on the cross. They would then rejoice as men rejoice when they divide the spoil of victory. Jesus would give them a victory greater than the victory Gideon and his tiny band of men gained when they defeated the mighty Midianites.

What great joy that Son-shine must have brought to their lives! Greater joy than those Chiliean miners who went 69 days without seeing the sun in the sky. Jesus, the light of the world brought light and life and healing. Jesus brought them the light of life! And yet how did the people of the region receive the Light of the World? While He did have some loyal followers, what happened when Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth and proclaimed in their synagogue that He was the Servant of the LORD of whom Isaiah prophesied? They tried to throw Him off of a cliff! And remember what dreadful words Jesus had to say to Capernaum? "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (Mt 11:23-24) Capernaum was exalted to the heavens because the Son of God was dwelling in their midst! Yet they ignored and rejected Jesus as their Savior.

Indeed, what John writes in the opening chapter of his Gospel is so true of Jesus: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (Jn 1:5) And then later on Jesus says in John 3, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn 3:19-21) Jesus gets right at the heart of the problem. So many reject Him as the light of the world because He shines light on their hearts and shows just how dark and sinful it is. The Son-shine also sheds crushes man’s pride by showing that man cannot save himself, only Jesus can. Many would much rather stay in the dark and keep their evil deeds hidden, rather than having them exposed by the Son-shine.

If Jesus had grown up in this area and decided to make Aberdeen or Oakes His home base for His ministry, how would you react? Would you take every opportunity to hear Him speak? Would you travel, even on bitterly cold days, a great distance to have the Son-shine upon you? Would you invite Him to your home to be your guest? Would you bring your children to Jesus to be blessed by Him? Of course we would! Can we imagine it being any other way?! Oh, that the Son were shining on us today! Our days would be less gloomy and we would rejoice in His presence! “Oh, that we were there” as the Christmas hymn goes.

But the Son is shining! He is shining right now! Listen again to what the Apostle Paul writes, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) God rescued us from the darkness of unbelief and hell when He brought us to faith in Jesus. He caused the Son to shine in our hearts. The Son of righteousness has arisen upon us. We who would otherwise be walking in darkness, not seeing that the path we were on was headed straight for hell. The Son of God has shined upon us who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death.

Therefore we can have that same great joy, because the Son is shining. We can rejoice as with the joy at harvest time, because in Christ we have harvested righteousness and eternal life. We can rejoice as men rejoice when the divide the spoils of war, because in Christ we are victorious. Death and the devil no longer has power over us. The Son has arisen in our hearts. Following Jesus we no longer walk in darkness, because we have the light of life.

While Jesus did not chose Oakes or Aberdeen as His home base, He chose your heart. He came to you in Water and the Word, and set up His throne in your heart. And there He shines. He shines in you and shines through you. But more than that, through His Word He continues to shine in our lives. You can invite Him over to your home to be your guest by opening the Scriptures at home and hearing His word. You can bring your children to Him to bless them. Both at Church where the light of His word shines on us, and at home with family devotions. This is the great joy of the Son-shine!

Lord willing, none of us will ever have to know what those Chilean miners had to go through. We will never have to experience going 69 days without sun light. But we have a greater joy than they had when they were finally brought to the surface, for we have been brought into the light of the Son of God. What a glorious light is this Son-shine. It warms our days and brings us hope and joy in the knowledge of sins forgiven and the promise of eternal life! Amen!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Isaiah 49:1-6 "How God is Glorified"

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Isaiah 49:1-6
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.” And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him – for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has become my strength – he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
(ESV)

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ISAIAH
Theme: HOW GOD IS GLORIFIED:
- By the redemptive work of His Servant
- When the light of His Gospel shines throughout the world

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been called out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, that you may proclaim His praises, grace and peace be multiplied unto you.
“Remember who’s son you are.” These are the parting words a father gave to his son as he left home for his first year of college. This father wanted his 18 year-old son to remember that he was his son and whatever he did would reflect on his family and his up-bringing. If this son was getting into trouble all the time in college, that would bring shame to the family name. If his son was a good student and loyal friend, that would bring glory to the family name.

We often forget whose sons and daughters we are, don’t we. Paul reminds us when he writes to the Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:14) When God brought us to faith in His Son Jesus, He made us members of His family. This was an amazing act of grace by the Triune God. He didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to send His Son and sacrifice Him to pay for our sins. He didn’t have to choose us from eternity to be His children. He didn’t have to send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create faith. But He chose us by grace, He adopted us by grace, and brought you into His family. This was God’s act of grace in making us His own dear children.

And so we can take the phrase of that father to his collegiate son and apply it to ourselves, “Remember whose sons you are.” Just as that 18 year-old would not want to bring shame on the family name, nor do we as children of the heavenly Father bring shame on our Family name. We want to bring glory to the name of the one who loved us so much that He would give His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins.

As we look for ways in which to glorify God we turn to our text for today. And in our text we have a rather unique conversation taking place. It is not every day that we can read of a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. In our text God the Son, Jesus, has something He wants the whole world to talk about. We also hear of what God the Father has to say about the work His Son is going to do. In our text we hear how God is glorified. He is glorified by the redemptive work of His Servant and He is glorified when the light of the Gospel is spread throughout the world. May the Holy Spirit lead us that we may always glorify His holy name!

There are many servants of the LORD mentioned throughout Scripture. Moses and David were servants of the LORD. It was their goal in life to serve the LORD. Having been bought back from the slavery of sin by the blood of Christ, we have been made servants of the LORD. But much like there are many presidents in our country but we only refer to one as THE President, so too there are many servants of the LORD in Scripture but there is only one Servant (capital “S”) of the LORD.

Beginning in Isaiah 42, the prophets writes of the chosen Servant of the LORD. The Servant of the LORD would open the eyes of the blind and bring prisoners out of captivity. Isaiah also writes in chapter 42 that the LORD would put His Spirit upon His Servant. Who is this Servant of the LORD? It is none other than Jesus Christ. Remember how at His baptism the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and remained on Him? And who else but Jesus opened the eyes of the blind both physically and spiritually? And who else but Jesus freed the spiritual captives from their slavery to sin? Jesus is the Servant of the LORD of whom Isaiah was prophesying in these chapters.

Isaiah 49 goes on to tell us more about the Servant of the LORD. He says in verse one, “The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” This ought to remind us of the Virgin Birth. Even from the moment of conception, the LORD made known the name of His Servant, Jesus. The name that would describe both Him and His work, as Jehovah saves.

The work of the Servant was that of the great Prophet promised through Moses. Isaiah writes of the Servant of the LORD, “He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.” The words of Jesus pierce right to the heart like a sharp sword. Like a polished arrow, His words hit a bulls-eye every time He takes aim at the heart of man. His words of law convict the sinner and His Word of Gospel comfort the troubled heart. This is why Jesus would often command the people He healed not to tell anyone. He wanted people who followed Him because of His teaching, not because of the miracles He worked.

The principle work which the Servant of the LORD would do, as Isaiah writes in verse 5, would be “to bring Jacob to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him.” Yes, Jesus was sent principally to the Children of Israel. They were the covenant people of God. They were the ones who had the Promise. When a Gentile Canaanite woman came to Jesus asking Him to help with her demon possessed daughter, Jesus replied, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt 15:24) Herein God would be glorified, when He sent His Servant Jesus to seek and to save that which was lost.

But this work of saving the lost would not be limited to just the Children of Israel. John the Baptist was right when he proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sin of the WORLD. Jesus did not just come to redeem the Jews, He came also to redeem the Gentiles. The LORD God says of His Servant in verse 6, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In the eyes of the LORD it was not enough to simply bring back the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Servant of the LORD came to save all sinners, Jew and Gentile alike. This is how God would be glorified, by the redemptive work of His Son in paying for the sins of the whole world.

And yet it is remarkable to hear the thoughts of the Servant of the LORD about His work. We read in verse 4, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” The Servant of the LORD feels that all His work is for naught. He feels that the descendants of Jacob are not coming back to the LORD and Israel is not being gathered to the LORD. Indeed as we look at the ministry of Jesus we see just that. He was despised and rejected by men. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him. One Sunday, Jerusalem was hailing Him as their King, by Friday they called for Him to be crucified.

We see this anguish of the Servant of the LORD especially in the Garden of Gethsemane. The night before His death He revealed His anguish to His disciples, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” (Mt 26:38) And when He prayed to His Father about what lay before Him, the Servant of the LORD prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” (v 39) We should not think for a moment that because Jesus was true God that His suffering and death was easy. It was hard because He was true Man and it was hard because He was hated. So excruciating was His agony that Luke writes that His sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. (Lk 22:44)

But how did Jesus end those prayers in Gethsemane? “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” More important to the Servant of the LORD than His own desires and fears, was doing the will of His Father. We read the same thing in our text in verse 4, “Yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.” While He was so troubled about His work, His suffering, and His rejection, He entrusted everything to the hands of His God. While He would receive injustice from man, He knew that the LORD would treat Him justly. Peter writes of Jesus, “When He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1Pt 2:23)

The Servant of the LORD did all this to glorify His Father who sent Him. We read in John 6 Jesus saying, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (Jn 6:38) The goal of the Servant of the LORD to glorify Him who sent Him. There was no greater way for the Servant of the LORD to glorify the Father than to willingly lay down His life as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. That is how the Servant of the LORD glorified God.

As servants of the LORD we too want to bring glory to our Father’s name. But no where does the LORD ask of us what He asked of His Servant Jesus. No where does He call on us to lay down our life for the sins of the world. Even if we were to make such a sacrifice, it would not be able to save one soul. Such a sacrifice would not be free spot or blemish, but stained by sin. Only the sinless Son of God was called upon to lay down His life for the sins of the world. And He did it. He paid for every last one of our sins. There is no more sacrifice to be made.

However, we can glorify God by spreading the light of His gospel throughout the world. God wants His salvation to reach the ends of the earth. Jesus has commissioned us to preach the Gospel to all creatures. Reaching the ends of the earth begins in our own backyards. It begins with family members who either don’t know about the love of Christ or who do not know the full glory of the Gospel. We can shine the light of the Gospel into their hearts as we share the truth about God’s salvation in Christ Jesus. We may not be able to go to Africa or India or Nepal to shine the light of the Gospel, but we can support those who are. We can support them first and foremost with our prayers and also with our offerings.

There will be times when we will feel disheartened, much as the Servant of the LORD did about His work. “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” How many times have we advertised a service or a luncheon and seen no fruit for our labors? How many times have we invited someone to church only to be turned down? It seems that we have labored in vain.

But remember how God is glorified. He is glorified when His salvation is being made known. Certainly we would love to see the fruits of our labor, but that is not always the case. Nor is the fruit always immediately evident. You may be one link in a long chain that God is using in the life of someone. You may also be the voice God is using to leave an unbeliever without excuse. Nowhere does God call upon us to convert all nations, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our calling is to proclaim the good news about salvation through His Servant, Jesus Christ. May God help us to always glorify Him in this way.

“Remember whose son you are.” Certainly Jesus always remembered whose Son He was. He sought to glorify His Father in everything He did. Jesus glorified His name by laying down His life to save us. Through faith in Jesus we have been made sons of God. May the Holy Spirit cause us always to remember that. May He aid us and give us the right words that we may gladly and willing glorify our Father by telling others of what great things He has done for us in Christ Jesus.

I hear the Savior calling! He leads a soul to me,
A soul in bitter anguish, One needing to be free.
The gift I have to offer Is Christ, my Lord’s decree
That all have been forgiven – My Savior calls for me! Amen. (WS #770:2)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Luke 24:29 OUR NEW YEAR'S PRAYER: "ABIDE WITH US!"

Luke 24:29 – But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.

Theme: Our New Year's Prayer: ABIDE WITH US!

      • How
      • Why

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,

“Abide with me!” For over a century Christians have been singing the hymn penned by Henry Lyte. Though found in the “evening” section of our hymnal, we have become accustomed to singing this hymn at funerals. Both evening and funerals are a very fitting time to sing the words “Abide with me.” At evening we want Jesus to be with us and abide with us. Also at the evening of our lives, as we close our eyes to this world through death we want Jesus to abide with us.

The Scriptural basis for this hymn is found in our sermon text for today. It was the late afternoon of the first Easter Sunday. Two of Jesus' followers were making their way from Jerusalem to the city of Emmaus. As they were walking, they were talking about all the events that had unfolded in Jerusalem that week. From Palm Sunday, to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. Now there were followers of Jesus who were saying that His body was no longer in the tomb and that angels appeared to them and told them Jesus had risen from the dead!

As they were walking on the road, Jesus suddenly appeared with them. But Jesus appeared in such a way that these two followers did not realize it was Him. As they walked on the way, Jesus asked them what they were talking about. They were surprised that He didn't seem to know what had happened in Jerusalem that weekend. Jesus then scolds them for their lack of faith in the Scriptures. At that point Jesus began having Bible Class with them on the road, telling them how from Moses to the Prophets God had foretold what was going to happen to Jesus.

Then they drew near to Emmaus where the two disciples were going. Jesus, still unknown to them, acted as if He was going to keep going on. It is at that point we have the words of our text from Luke 24 verse 29,


But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.


This is the very Word of God, breathed into the holy writer Luke by His Holy Spirit. God has preserved this Word for us today that we might be strengthened in faith, knowing that He is our God and we are His children by faith in Jesus. May God keep us steadfast in His Word. We pray, O Lord, Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth! Amen.


So what do you hope to accomplish in this New Year? Have you made resolutions for 2011? Some of the resolutions I heard on TV were things like losing weight, exercising more, and being a better person. As we consider what we want and desire for the New Year, let us take the words of these two disciples as our New Year's prayer to Jesus - “Abide with us!” We first consider HOW Jesus abides with us.

The word “abide” may be unfamiliar to us. It is a word we just don't use in our everyday language. To “abide” simply means to “stay” with someone or somewhere. The shepherds who were abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night, were staying with their sheep out in the fields. When the Emmaus disciples ask Jesus to “abide” with them, they want Jesus to stay where they are staying. To physically come under the same roof as them.

Which one of us doesn't desire the same thing? We want Jesus to stay with us in this New Year and always! But HOW does Jesus abide with us? Jesus first came to abide with us in the flesh. When He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the eternal Son of God came to abide with us on earth. He came to be our brother, our friend, our Savior, and our Redeemer. He came to abide with us to be our Substitute. He was our Substitute under the Law as He kept God's Law perfectly in our place. He was our Substitute on the cross as God punished Him for all the sin we had committed. And He was our Substitute when He rose from the dead. Having been baptized into Christ we have been baptized into everything He did. We are forgiven and righteous in Him.

We should not be mistaken in thinking Jesus will randomly abide with us, without any means. As the all-powerful Son of God, He certainly could. However, He has told us how He comes to us and abides with us. On the road to Emmaus, He simply appeared to the two disciples walking and talking with them. And what was it He was talking about? The Word! In John 8 Jesus says, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Jn 8:31-32) Jesus comes to us in His Word. He works in our hearts by His Holy Spirit.

By His Holy Spirit He works faith in our hearts and sets up His throne in our hearts. He abides in our hearts. In John 14 Jesus says, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (Jn 14:23) Again it is through the Word that Jesus comes to make His home in our hearts.

In just a little bit, we will be celebrating Lord's Supper. This is another way in which Jesus abides with us. The Apostle Paul writes of this sacred meal, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16) In, with, and under the bread and wine Jesus comes to abide with us as He gives us His body and His blood. He gives us Himself and abides with us.

While Jesus certainly could appear on to us and abide with us on the road of this life, as He did to the Emmaus disciples, He has given us no promise that He will do this. But Jesus has promised us how He will abide with us - through His Means of Grace. He comes to abide with us through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament. We should not be mistaken that we can stay away from Lord's Supper and the Word, and Jesus will just come and abide with us.

We want Jesus to abide with us in the New Year and always. But we must remember how He comes to abide with us. Through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament.


WHY?

Why do you suppose those two disciples wanted Jesus to abide with them? Well they give their reasons in our text, don't they? “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” They wanted Jesus to abide with them because it was almost evening. For Him to travel on that night would have been dangerous.

As we begin a New Year, we do well to remember that the day is far spent for us as well. With every tick on the clock, every day that passes, and every New Year, we are that much closer to THE Day. The day when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Furthermore each one of us is that much closer to the evening of lives, our days in this world are far spent. As we draw closer and closer to eternity we want Jesus to abide with us. On Judgment Day we want to say, “We're with Him!”

As we approach the Last Day, Jesus warns us of how difficult these last days will be. The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy of what the evening of this world will be like. As you listen, see if you can identify some of the things that are going on today in this world. 2 Timothy 3, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” It reads like the headlines of today's newspaper, doesn't it? We see so many of these things in the world and society around us.

Because of the hardship of the last days, we need now, more than ever, for Jesus to abide with us! We need Him to abide with us to protect us from the evil of this world, the temptations of the devil, and the weakness of our own sinful flesh. “Abide with us, dear Jesus! For our lives are far spent and it is toward the evening of our lives and this world. The days are evil and dangerous! We need you to abide with us every passing hour! Amen.”


But there is another reason why the Emmaus disciples wanted Jesus to abide with them, wasn't there. It was not just because they were hospitable and were worried about the dangers of traveling at night. Later on, when Jesus revealed Himself to them and they realized it was Him they spoke about their conversation on the road earlier that day. "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:38) Jesus was at work in their hearts as He was with them on the road and they wanted Him to continue to abide with them and work in their hearts.

As we consider why we want Jesus to abide with us in the new year, another reason is that He would work in our hearts and our lives. Listen to what Jesus has promised to all who abide in Him in the Vine and branches section of John 15:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. 9 " As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is why we want Jesus to abide with us. Without Jesus we are a lifeless branch that is cut away from the Vine and cast into the fire. But when we abide in Jesus through His Word and Sacrament He promises to do great things in us and through us. Abiding in Jesus bear fruit which glorifies God. He gives us spiritual life. He causes us to do good works. In Jesus, God the Father hears and answers our prayers. In Jesus, we have the love of God at work in our hearts. In Jesus we have joy in our lives.

We rejoice to look back at 2010 and consider the ways in which Jesus was abiding with us. He was with us in our trails and saw us through them all. He was with us in Word and Sacrament as strengthened our faith. As we approach this new year, we pray that He would continue to abide with us. Abide with us through His Gospel. Abide with us as we hear His Word and receive His body and blood in the Sacrament here at church. Abide with us in our homes and with our families as we hear His Word in our family devotions. Abide with us especially in these evil last days. Abide with us that we may lead God-pleasing lives in 2011.


O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell:
Oh, come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel! Amen. (TLH 647:4)