Month: May, 2017

BAPTISM SAVES

BAPTISM SAVES

God works through means. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word and the Sacraments. When ordinary water is combined with God’s Word and connected with His command, it does exactly what God promises it will do. It saves (Titus 3:4–7; 1 Peter 3:21). Through Baptism God forgives sins and gives the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Baptism joins you to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection (Rom. 6:4–5). Baptism gives eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:11–12). Baptism makes disciples (Matt. 28:19). These promises are for all people, young and old (Acts 2:39). These promises are fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  For you.

Standing Up for Christ by Pastor Roger Rohde April 23, 2017

Standing Up for Christ

Acts 5:29-42

Martin Luther was called to meet at what is known as the Diet of Worms in

  1. There was at this gathering 206 nobles and church officials. It was an

intimidating sight – one man before 206 accusers. The format was not a debate,

but 206 individuals speaking in one voice calling for Martin Luther to recant of all

the things he had written. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Luther asked for

time to reflect that he might wisely act in accordance with God’s Word. The

meeting was adjourned until the next day. Luther prayed that night: “There is no

strength in me. This is Your cause, O God, not mine. On You I rely, not on man.”

The next day Martin Luther again stood before 206 individuals as they asked him

to recant of the things he had written. This time Martin Luther spoke and ended

his presentation with these words: “Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the

Scripture or by clear arguments that I am in error – for popes and councils have

often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot withdraw, for I am satisfied to

the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is

unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I

cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”

Peter and John in our text are like Luther at the Diet of Worms. They are

standing before the high priest, all his associates, and the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:17).

These men were calling for Peter and John to cease their proclamation of the

Gospel. Like Martin Luther these men refused to deny Christ and His Word. Our

text shows us what led people like Peter, John, and Martin Luther to stand up for

Christ.

One who stands up for Christ recognizes that the Lord is the ultimate

authority.

Peter and John are in a position that we do no envy. They have been using

God’s power and declaring God’s Truth, and now are arrested for it. This is the

second time it has happened to them. Prior to our text the high priest, his

associates, and the Sanhedrin had arrested them and told them not to speak of

Jesus anymore. Freed the first time, they continue to teach about Jesus in the

temple courts. The leaders were outraged by this and arrested Peter and John a

second time. The high priest said to them: “We gave you strict orders not to

teach in Jesus’ name.” The apostles responded: “We must obey God rather than

men.” Martin Luther, Peter and John all recognized Jesus to be the ultimate

authority to Whom they were accountable.

One of the reasons people don’t stand up for Jesus today is that they do

not behold Him as their Creator and the One to Whom they are ultimately

accountable. It is no accident that Luther in his meaning to the First Article of the

Apostles’ Creed noted: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures. He has

given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all

my senses, and still takes care of them…. He richly and daily provides me with all

that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and

guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine

goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my

duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

When we know and believe that all we are and have is from God, we know

Him to be our ultimate authority to Whom we are accountable. His command to

us is clear: Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing and by teaching them

God’s Word. When authorities forbid us to share God’s Word they are not acting

as representatives of God. We are called upon by God to be faithful to Him by

sharing His Word in season and out of season (II Timothy 4:2). We are always to

speak God’s Truth, but we are to do it with a spirit of love for this is the will of

God.

One who stands up for Christ proclaims the message of salvation. The

apostles did not present to the world their opinions, but the very things they

witnessed concerning Jesus. He was crucified on the cross and rose again from

the grave. He ascended into heaven and offers the forgiveness of sins, life and

salvation to all who believe in Him. It is noteworthy that the disciples proclaim

these things because they were witnesses to them.

Many times we excuse ourselves from standing up for Jesus, because we

claim we don’t know enough and have no idea what to say. Earlier in Acts 4,

when Peter and John were arrested the first time, those who tried them noted

that they were “unschooled, ordinary men.” God does not say we have to have a

degree in theology or Biblical studies to witness for Him. In a court of law people

are called to witness to that of which they are personally aware. The disciples

had witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection and knew the eternal benefit that

these events brought all mankind. We, too, our witnesses to these things as we

just went through Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We know

what the cross of Calvary means and the significance of the empty tomb. Like the

disciples of old we are to witness to the reality of sin and the saving grace of God

in Christ Jesus.

One who stands up for Christ knows that God’s purposes will always be

accomplished. This truth is acknowledged by Gamaliel in our text. Gamaliel was a

Pharisee who did not believe in Jesus as the Savior. Nevertheless, he knew that

no human being could stop God from accomplishing His purposes. He notes that

men like Theudas and Judas the Galilean had large numbers of people who

followed them. Yet, after a period of time these leaders died and the people who

followed them disbanded. Gamaliel’s advice: “Leave these disciples of Jesus

alone! If their purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail, but if it is from

God, you will not be able to stop it!” This truth is worthy of our attention.

The strength to stand up for Christ and achieve the purposes for which He

called us to witness is not in our hands but God’s. Martin Luther noted that in his

prayer before he spoke at the Diet of Worms: “There is no strength in me. This is

Your cause, O God, not mine. On You I rely, not on man.” It is important as we

witness for Christ to remember His promise to us: “My Word will not return void,

but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”

(Isaiah 55:11).

It is just as important to remember that one who stands up for Christ will

encounter persecution in his life. In our text we see that as the disciples faithfully

proclaimed God’s Truth as God commanded, they were not free from

encountering persecution. Before they were let go with orders not to proclaim

the name of Jesus, they were flogged.

Somehow we have the mistaken idea that if we witness for Christ correctly

we will not know any persecutions in our life. The disciples in our text did

everything right. They witnessed to Christ as He had commanded. They spoke

the truth in love. Yet, that didn’t spare them from being persecuted.

Experiencing persecution for the Christian faith is not something a Christian seeks.

Yet, it should not be something he avoids. Jesus clearly tells us in the Bible: “If

anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up the cross and

follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

As we stand up for Christ we will encounter persecution and not everyone

will be receptive to the Gospel we share. Yet, God calls us to share it because

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by

which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

No one comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6).

God grant us strength to stand up for Christ, to be bold in our testimony of

Him, and to clearly share the message of salvation He has called us to share. Let

us not hide our faith under a bushel to avoid conflict and gain worldly approval,

but let us share God’s Word so that the hearts and lives of people can be changed

and blessed for all eternity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Easter Truth Brings Eternal Joy by Pastor Roger Rohde April 16, 2017

Easter Truth Brings Eternal Joy

Psalm 16:9-11

The words of our text speak of an event that would occur approximately

1,000 years after these words were first recorded. The prophecy before us

declares that the Holy One will not see decay. This Holy One is Jesus. Jesus did

not see any decay of His body during the three days it was in the tomb. Peter in

his Pentecost sermon noted: “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the

patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was

a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one

of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the

resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his

body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the

fact” (Acts 2:29-32). Paul proclaimed a similar message in Acts 13: 34-39: “The

fact that God raised Christ from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these

words: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ So it is

stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ For when David had

served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his

fathers and his body decayed. But the One Whom God raised from the dead did

not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the

forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is

justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of God.”

The point is that the resurrection of Jesus we celebrate today brings us

Easter truth that can provide us with eternal joy.

The resurrection of Jesus assures us that the soul of a departed Christian

immediately goes from this life to be in heaven with Jesus. Once a

Christian’s earthly life on earth is over, the body returns to the ground from

whence it came, and the soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven. Solomon put it

this way in Ecclesiastes 12:7, “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and

the spirit returns to God Who gave it.” For this reason Jesus said to the repentant

thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is

what Jesus is talking about in John 11:25 when He said a Christian does not die.

When a Christian departs this life he goes to heaven to dwell with the Lord, which

Paul says is far better than continuing to live on earth (Philippians 1:23).

This truth is important for us to keep in mind as we all have to deal with

death. We may have been experienced the passing of a spouse, a parent, a child,

a relative or friend. There is heartache and pain whenever death befalls us.

Death is not natural. It is not the way God created it to be. Death is a part of our

lives today because of sin. Yet, the Lord tells us through Paul that “we are not to

sorrow as others who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose

again, we also know that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep”

(I Thessalonians 4:13-14). Easter truth of Christ’s resurrection brings us eternal

joy knowing that through Christ death has no power over us. “Nothing can

separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39).

Easter truth is also about a Christian’s body rising again from the grave on

the Last Day. Job noted in today’s Old Testament Reading: “I now that my

Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my

skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with

my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me”

(Job 19:25-27).

What a day it will be when our Savior returns to open all the graves. Those

who trusted in Christ will see their bodies transformed like unto His glorious body.

Paul wrote in today’s Epistle Reading: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all

sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last

trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and

we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable,

and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the

imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will

come true: “Death is swallowed up in victory. ‘O death, where is your sting? O

grave, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is

the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus

Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always

give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in

the Lord is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:51-58).

The Easter truth is meant not only to console us when a brother or sister in

Christ passes away, but it is meant to comfort us as we also face our own death.

Easter truth brings consolation, peace, joy, and hope to all who cling to Jesus

Christ by faith. May we be blessed by the Easter truth of Jesus’ resurrection and

may we be bold to share its life-giving truth and blessing with others. Amen.

Don’t Let Jesus Pass You By Pastor Roger Rohde April 9, 2017

Don’t Let Jesus Pass You By

Isaiah 50:4-10

Did you ever try and imagine what that first Palm Sunday was like? As I

reflected upon this thought in preparation for this message, I realized that most

of the time we look at that first Palm Sunday as a great celebratory event. Jesus

was riding into town on a donkey with a crowd of people laying down palm

branches and articles of clothes before Him shouting out, “Hosanna! Blessed is

He Who comes in the name of the Lord!” It sounds so celebratory and exciting.

Yet, while it appeared to be a time of great celebration, in reality it was an

event marked by a week of great confusion. Crowds of people thought Jesus was

now going to establish an earthy utopia for the people of Israel. They did not see

Him as a spiritual Messiah but an earthly one. Even the disciples did not

comprehend the concept of His kingdom until the time of Pentecost. Before His

ascension into heaven the disciples were still asking Jesus, “Lord, are You at this

time going to restore the kingdom of Israel” (Acts 1:6)? Only one person truly

understood the purpose of Jesus’ riding into Jerusalem that Palm Sunday and that

one person was Jesus. Jesus later on in the week told Pilate, “My kingdom is not

of this world” (John 18:36). During Holy Week, it was only Jesus Who understood

the eternal spiritual nature of His kingdom. All others were looking at His kingship

from an earthly perspective.

Confusion also existed within the crowd as not everyone was crying out,

“Hosanna” to the Son of God. Some were plotting to kill Jesus. Jesus almost a

year before this was aware of this as Jesus told His disciples, “I must go to

Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and

teachers of the law. I must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”

(Matthew 16:21). Jesus knew that in between the cries of Hosanna there were

also those who were plotting His death.

Jesus also knew as He rode into Jerusalem that His disciples would not

remain by His side. During the Passover Meal on Thursday night, when Jesus

instituted the Lord’s Supper, He told His disciples: “This very night you will all fall

away on account of me.”

The crowds that once cried out with joy, “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday would

by the end of the week turn their backs on Jesus and call for His crucifixion, while

His disciples would deny Him. Holy Week was not filled with celebration but

confusion as Jesus passed through the streets of Jerusalem to the cross of Calvary.

Is there confusion in our hearts about Jesus today? Do we lack the joy of

Jesus in our hearts, and are we silent about knowing Him in our lives? On this

Palm Sunday the Lord through the Old Testament Reading gives us a prophecy

showing us that while people may have been confused about Jesus and His

purpose for coming to Jerusalem, Jesus never was. Jesus knew what His coming

into Jerusalem meant and in today’s text He speaks of how His coming is meant to

impact our lives.

First we see through this prophecy that Jesus’ coming is meant to

strengthen our lives. Jesus came to offer us not only physical strength, but more

important spiritual strength. In our text we told that the Messiah “would speak a

word in season to him who is weary.” That is precisely what Jesus does. Through

His Word He provides us with truths that pertain to every season in our lives.

Whether we are young or old, married or single, an employer or an employee,

facing prosperity or death, Jesus has something to offer each of us in every

situation of our lives. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path

(Psalm 119:105). His Word reprimands us when we need it. His Word offers us

direction for our living and provides us with words of comfort, strength, and

hope. As Paul put it in II Timothy 3: 16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is

useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the

man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The One Who

passes us by on Palm Sunday is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the living truth,

eternal God, Who knows all things. Will you be unresponsive to His Word and

simply let Him pass you by?

Second, through the prophecy of our text we learn the depth of Jesus’ love

for us. It is seen in how He reacted to how we treated Him. The disciples of old

denied Him. You and I have forsaken Him. All of us have broken the heart of our

Lord by the sins we have committed and the lack of interest and commitment to

the Lord we have shown. Yet, what did Jesus do for us who turned our backs on

Him. The prophecy tells us that “He gave His back to those who struck Him, His

cheeks to those who plucked out His bread. He did not hide His face from shame

and spitting.”

What a vivid prophecy of what happened when Jesus stood before Pontius

Pilate. Pilate said to Jesus: “Don’t you realize I have power either to free You or

to crucify You?” Jesus answered: “You would have no power over Me if it were

not given to you from above” (John 19:10-11). Prior to this you might remember

Peter drew a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus said to Peter: “Put your sword away! … Do you think that I cannot call on My

Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of

angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in

this way” (Matthew 26:52-54)?

The prophecy in our text states that the Messiah would give His back, His

face, His life for us. Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be tied to a whipping post

and scourged thirty-nine times. This left His back torn open and His inner organs

exposed. The soldiers spit in His face. They blindfolded Him, struck Him, and

called for Him to prophecy who struck Him in the face. Jesus did not turn His back

on us sinful people, but He allowed Himself to be hung on the cross and

encounter the wrath of God for our sins.

Are we so busy with life that we simply let Jesus pass us by, giving little or

no consideration or signs of appreciation for the depth of His love for us? What

kind of response does Jesus expect from us? The prophecy in our text not only

speaks about what Jesus did for us, but it speaks to how the Lord desires these

truths to impact our lives.

First, God wants us to respond to His instruction and love by living in

faithful obedience to His Word. A life of faith is a life lived in obedience to God’s

Truth. He Who knows and believes God’s Truth, lives by that Truth. The

prophecy points this out through the question and statement made in verse 10:

“Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant?… Let him

trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.” If we truly take hold of

Christ by faith we will not let Him pass us by, but we will trust in His Word and live

according to it.

Second, God wants us to proclaim His saving grace. In the prophecy it is

stated: “Who will contend with Me? Let us stand together.” If we truly believe in

Jesus and all He says, we will stand up for Him and His Truth in our daily living.

We will not be afraid to be counted among His people, but we will live our lives to

spread the Gospel to every person.

This is indeed how Jesus affected eleven of His disciples. For a long time

they were confused. They denied Jesus and forsook Him. Yet, when by the power

of the Holy Spirit they understood this prophecy in the light of Jesus Christ, they

were willing to live their lives for Him even to the point of death.

As we go through this period of Holy Week, may we be shaped by Jesus’

love and Truth. May we come to celebrate Easter with renewed hearts of love for

our Savior and a commitment to bring His saving work to all people. Amen.

 

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