Sermons

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.

 

Living by God’s Spirit by Rev. Roger Rohde (4-2-17)

Living by God’s Spirit

Romans 8:1-11

This is examination Sunday. It is not an examination with regard to the

knowledge we have in our heads, but rather an examination of our hearts to see

what makes us tick. I looked up this expression, “what makes us tick,” on the

internet and found the following meanings: “What motivates us to do the things

we do? What makes us behave the way we do?” Today’s text leads us to closely

examine whether or not we are living by the Spirit of God.

Our text begins with the word, “therefore,” indicating to us that what

preceded our text is directly connected to what we find in our text. At the end of

Romans 7, Paul speaks of how Christians go through a daily conflict between the

desires of the sinful flesh and the Spirit of God that dwells within them. Paul

notes that we will not always successfully live pure and holy lives. We will sin

against the Lord and stand in need of His forgiveness. Yet, to win the spiritual

battle each one of us needs to examine ourselves and honestly see what it means

to live by the Spirit of God.

To live by the Spirit of God starts with God’s Spirit living in us.

Paul opens our text by saying: “There is no condemnation for those who

are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me

free from the law of sin and death.” How can we be free from the law of God that

condemns us as lost and condemned creatures? No one can nullify God’s law not

even God Himself. For God to nullify the law He had given would make Him

unfaithful, a liar. The law of God shall always stand and it shall always show us

the reality of our sins. God’s law with its demands cannot be nullified, but it can

be fulfilled.

That is the point of the opening words of our text: “There is not

condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the

law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Paul in our text

goes on to say: “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin

offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous

requirements of the law might be fully met.”

The point is this: Jesus did not nullify the law of God but fulfilled it.

Remember Jesus words earlier in His ministry: “Do not think that I have come to

abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them”

(Matthew 5:17). Because of our sinful flesh, we were too weak to fulfill God’s

Law and save ourselves. For this reason God sent Jesus “in the likeness of sinful

man.” This does not mean Jesus sinned. It means He took on human flesh and

blood. He lived to fulfill God’s law we failed to keep and then died as if He was

the violator of God’s law rather than us. He experienced the pain and

punishment of our sins so that we would not be under the law’s condemnation.

We are blessed by this saving work of Christ as the Holy Spirit works faith in

our hearts. This gift of faith comes about not by a resolution or an intellectual

decision we make (John 1:12-13). This gift of faith is just that, a gift of God

created in us by the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly tells us in I Corinthians 12:3: “No

one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” Dr. Martin Luther noted this

Scriptural truth in these words of his: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or

strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has

called me by the Gospel.” Living by God’s Spirit begins as the Holy Spirit works

faith in Christ within our hearts.

To live by the Spirit of God continues as we are Spirit-minded. Paul writes

in our text: “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on

what the Spirit desires.” Like a plant positions itself toward the sun, those who

are Spirit-minded direct themselves to the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

This, of course, does not come easily. So often we become trapped and

strapped by the things of this life that we really don’t set our minds on the things

of God. We may talk the Christian talk, but our lives show the lie of our words.

Our dwelling place, our spouse, our children and grandchildren, our job and

hobbies can become more important to us than the Lord. Yet, God clearly states:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will

be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Seeking the things of God’s kingdom does not

mean we cannot have goods, job, child, and wife. It does mean, however, that

these are not our greatest worth. He who lives by the Spirit of God has God first

and foremost in his mind.

This means that some of us need to loosen our hold on the things that do

not last eternally. We cannot take our homes, belongings, job, family and friends

with us when we die. The only One Who can go with us through the valley of the

shadow of death is Christ, so we need to hold onto Him tightly. We better do this

for Paul says very bluntly in our text: “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to

set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

To live by the Spirit of God concludes as we are Spirit-guided. The last

section of our text speaks about being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Christianity is

not merely a message that our sins are forgiven and we will have an eternal home

in heaven. Christianity is about living in the forgiveness of sins we have received

in Christ, and living for the One Who has blessed us with everlasting life in

heaven.

Being Spirit-guided means we will bear the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives.

If you want to read more about this turn to Galatians 5:16-25. We don’t have

time to reference this in more detail right now. Suffice it to say, living by the

Spirit of God means that we bear the fruit of faith in our lives. We not only speak

the Christian talk, but we walk the Christian way in all things. We show by the

way we live that the Spirit lives within us and has made us to be His temple, Spirit-

minded and Spirit-driven.

What makes you tick? What governs your life in this hour? Draw near unto

the Lord with repentant hearts and He will forgive you of your sins and empower

you with His Spirit to be a Spirit-minded and Spirit-guided person who praises our

Lord and Savior in this life and for all eternity. Amen.

Karma? I’ll Take Grace by Rev. Neil Wonnacott (3-26-17)

Lent 4                                     “Karma? I’ll Take Grace”                                                       March 26, 2017

The Text for our message comes from the Gospel of John 9:1–41

I can’t say that I love the rock band U2, but they’re a force to be reckoned with, as is their lead singer.

Like the band’s anthems, Bono is larger than life. Along with his music, he’s been in the news for his humanitarian work, especially fighting AIDS in Africa. Normally, I’m a little cynical about such things, but I have to say, he’s starting to grow on me.

Asked about what drives him, what makes him tick, Bono answered, “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but

The Thing That Keeps Me on My Knees Is the

Difference between Grace and Karma.”

  1. Karma is all about justice.

Now, it’s no small thing to take on karma. John Lennon sang about instant karma. Radiohead warned of the karma police. But what is it? It’s the idea that what goes around comes around, that there’s a kind of justice that drives the inner workings of the universe. You might have caught a video sometime ago, gone viral. In it, a man in a pickup truck tailgates a woman, and then passes her, while triumphantly displaying his middle finger. And just after that, his truck spins out, and he crashes into a ditch. Ah, there’s karma for you, and people love it. He got what was coming to him.

And then, on the other side, there’s the popular pay-it-forward movement. I can’t quite figure out how it’s especially virtuous to purchase a cappuccino for the guy in the car behind you, or to pick up someone’s tab at a restaurant. But somehow, it’s good karma. And it sets the motions of the universe in your favor.

As the prophet Bono puts it, “You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; in physical laws every action is met by an equal and opposite one.”

So it happened that Jesus was walking along, and came across a man born blind. And the disciples asked the karma question, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?”

And this is the kind of question we’re comfortable with, the kind of question that attempts to make sense of the world. A man has cancer? Well, yeah, he smoked for over twenty years. Kidney problems? Drank too much. Heart attack? Not enough diet or exercise. Car accident? Drove too fast. And texting is terrible. And I would never do that, we are pleased to say. A pastor who’s lost his call? Must have been a bull in the china shop. Lost his hair? Well, there must be some reason.

  1. But true justice results in our justice.

So, why was the man born blind? Was it because of his sin? Or perhaps the sin of his parents?

I know what I’d say to the karma question. And I know I wouldn’t give the karma answer. I’d say that one common sin infects us all. Sure, certain sins have specific consequences, built into the way the world functions, but death is going to get each and every one of us, no matter how well we live, and no matter how righteous we think we may be. We’ve all sinned and all creation suffers. The world is broken.

And that’s true. Give an answer like that, along with a quote or two from Pieper or Walther, and you’ll get an A in dogmatics. But Jesus doesn’t offer a simple dogmatic answer. Instead, he says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v 3).

Talk about mind-blowing. Sin, in all its negativity, has actually set in motion a chain of events that ends not with disaster, but with mysterious blessing. Is that possible?

And, do we really want to gloat? to take pleasure in someone getting his punishment? “If karma was finally going to be my judge,” the prophet Bono said, “then I’d be in deep trouble.

IIII. Instead, grace is a gift, paid for by Christ.

Then Bono added, “I’m holding out for grace; I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”

We like to think of ourselves as nice people, but we also like to think we’re better than others. When someone does something wrong, we say, “He’ll get his,” or “What goes around comes around.” And in this way, we try to make sense of the world, taking solace in the idea that evil doesn’t go unpunished. But then evil people do get away with things, and we don’t know what to think.

So also when we see bad things happen to people, we seek to insulate ourselves from the tragedy. When a man is born blind, the disciples jump to the popular assumption of the day: either he sinned while still in the womb, or his parents sinned in some grievous way (Jn 9:2). We easily assume that folks are getting paid back for evil or foolish behavior. So if a man dies of a heart attack, we say, “Well, he ate too much and didn’t exercise.” While that may be true, it not only shows no compassion, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that we all die.

The truth is, we all sin, and we all are worthy of nothing but death. There’s no room for gloating. There’s only repentance. For in the end, sin must be paid for, and it is paid for by Christ.

It was never God’s plan that man fall into sin. It was never God’s intention that there would be illness and death, or that men would be born blind.

And yet, and yet in the mystery of His grace, in the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, our Lord took a fallen situation and not only restored it, but made it better than it ever was. By the mystery of the incarnation and the glory of the cross, we have come to see God as we never could before: face-to-face, in full and sacrificial love.

We have experienced a love that has been tested, a love that has been challenged, a love that goes beyond a mutually beneficial relationship. And having been forgiven much, what can we do but fall to our knees?

Yes, God loves the angels. But the angels are good. And it’s easy to love those who love you in return. Even the pagans do this. But we have received a greater love. We have been shown a more beautiful grace. He has taken us creatures and turned us into children. And no, the world still hasn’t found what it’s looking for; for the world in its worldliness is blind; the world looks at the font, and they don’t think it’s worth a bucket of spit. But we, whose eyes have been opened, see a crystal fountain, a river of life flowing from the throne of God, and the Lamb who has been slain.

Bono’s right. It’s a miracle that the God of the universe is seeking out the company of folks like us. But that’s what He’s done. What happened to the man born blind? Well, we know he became an outcast. His own parents distanced themselves from him, and the community ostracized him. But our Lord then went the extra mile and sought him out. Our Lord took friendship and mercy and turned it into full communion.

So, yeah, karma sounds cool. But on this one, I’m with Bono. I’d rather have grace. We’ll never be rock stars, but we can join together with him in another band and sing together the song of the Lamb, the song of love unknown. Amen.

Now may the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding keep our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus unto life eternal. Amen.

The Faith of Our Father, Abraham by Rev. Roger Rohde (3-12-17)

The Faith of Our Father, Abraham

Genesis 12:1-7

How do we view the historical figures revealed in Scripture, such as

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Are they for us merely historical figures, or do we

find in them relevance for our own lives?

Four times in the pages of Scripture – Genesis 17:4 and 5, and again in

Romans 4:17 and 18 – Abraham is described as “the father of many nations and

the father of us all.” We would do well then to look at this morning’s text and

behold the relevancy this spiritual father has for lives. Abraham’s life is a story of

faith and shows us the faith to which God calls us.

The faith of our father, Abraham, was one of obedience.

A mistaken concept that arises among us is when we think that because we

are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ, it makes little difference

what we do or how we live. Nothing is farther from the truth. While works do

not save us, our works surely do display what we truly believe. There are

numerous times in the Bible when God speaks about faith in the Lord producing

fruit. For example, John the Baptist in his ministry stated: “Produce fruit in

keeping with repentance…. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut

down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:8, 10).  Jesus builds on this theme

when in John 15, He says: “I am the Vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts

off every branch in Me that bears no fruit…. You did not chose Me, but I chose

you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (John 15:1-2, 16). James in his

epistle noted: “Faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:17).

Faith in Christ displays itself in obedience to the Lord. Martin Luther noted

that a man is justified (declared righteous before God) by faith in Christ alone, but

by a faith that is not alone. Genuine faith produces a life of obedience to Jesus

Who saved us from our sins.

This is what we learn about faith as we look at the father of our faith,

Abraham. The Lord said to Abraham: “Leave your country, your people and your

father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Our text tells us that

Abraham responded by faith and left. His obedience to God showed his faith in

the Lord and God’s instruction to him. Abraham did the unthinkable, exchanging

all the securities of life – leaving his country and his father’s household – and

going to a land that God promised him. It was a very bold step of faith displayed

in Abraham’s obedience to God.

This type of faith is the type of faith God is looking for in us. Faith displays

itself in obedience to the Lord at all costs. This is the very thing Jesus sought to

teach us when He said: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is

not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not

worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not

worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lost it, and whoever loses his life for My

sake will find it” (Matthew 10: 37-39).

Is our faith in Christ like that of our spiritual father, Abraham? Do we

believe in all the promises and commands of God and live our lives according to

them?

The faith of our father, Abraham, blessed him and blessed others.

God promised Abraham that he would become a great nation and that he

would be blessed by God.   God went on to tell Abraham: “You will be a blessing. I

will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. All people on

earth will be blessed through you.” The New Testament imparts to us that this

blessing came in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:

“Abraham’s children do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to

kill Me. Abraham did not do such things…. Abraham rejoiced at the thought of

seeing My day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:39-40, 56).

Abraham believed that God would bless him and make him a great nation.

By faith Abraham could see the fulfillment of this promise coming in the promised

Messiah Who would come through Abraham’s ancestral line. Paul tells us: “The

promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say

‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’ meaning one person,

who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). In other words, Abraham was blessed by believing

in the same Savior in Whom you and I believe. Abraham was saved and made a

part of God’s family by believing in the Messiah Who was coming and pay for

man’s sins; while you and I are saved by believing in the Messiah Who has come

to pay for our sins. Paul says: “Abraham believed in God and it was credited to

him as righteousness. Understand, then, that those who believe are children of

Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and

announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through

you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith”

(Galatians 3:6-9).

This leads us to the third aspect of father Abraham’s faith noted in today’s

text. The faith of our father, Abraham, was focused on the land of promise. From

an earthly perspective this was Canaan, but from a spiritual perspective this refers

to heaven. In Hebrews we are told that Abraham “was looking forward to the city

with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham

in faith was always looking to the eternal home that was prepared for him

through Jesus Christ.

It is God’s promise of eternal glory in heaven that is meant to be at the

center of our lives and the work we do here on earth. Paul put it this way: “I

press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…. I press on

toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in

Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12, 14).

Is this our ultimate goal in life to dwell with Jesus in heaven? Is that the

basis by which we live our faith, hear God’s Word, and share it with others?

Abraham is not just an interesting historical figure that we can view from a

distance. Abraham is known as the father of faith, and an example of the faith

that God would have us all to possess. Abraham lived what he believed and

obediently followed the will of God. God blessed him, and Abraham faithfully

availed himself to be used by God as an instrument to bless the lives of other

people, keeping his sights on the Promised Land. Let us be faithful spiritual

descendants of our spiritual father, Abraham, and let us live by faith as the

children of God. Amen.

What We Can Learn About Sin by Rev. Roger Rohde (3-5-17)

What We Can Learn About Sin

Genesis 3:1-19                 March 5, 2017

This text is the first account in Scripture of Satan revealing himself to man

and man falling into sin. Through this text we are introduced to the work of Satan

and how he leads human beings into sin, disrupts their lives, and destroys their

relationships to one another and to God. We are reminded in this text that Satan

is always at work to lead us into sin. Let us this morning learn about sin, Satan,

and God’s answer to these things.

We begin by beholding that Satan’s ways are always deceptive. Satan

never speaks the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but rather he speaks

what is called as “half-truths,” which are nothing more than lies. In our text Satan

displays his deceptiveness by agreeing with Eve that God said they were not to

eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The lie comes when Satan

suggests why God told them not to eat of that tree. Satan told Eve that this was

God’s command, because God didn’t want Adam and Eve to become equal with

God. Satan suggests that God always wants the upper hand over man and if man

would eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden, God would no longer have

an upper hand over them.

This was a lie, an example of the deceptive way Satan works.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with us, Eve was led into sin by the

deceptive ways of Satan. For the first time that we know Eve looked at that tree

in the middle of the Garden, analyzed it, and saw it was desirable to eat.

How often have we ceased to stand in God’s Truth, because Satan has led

us to analyze situations and circumstances not by the truth of God’s Word, but by

the desires of our hearts, the reason of our minds, or the influences of our

society? The great shift we see in the morals of our society today is connected to

Satan deceiving us into believing his lies rather than God’s Truth. Satan is always

at work to lead us into sin.

His ways are always deadly and filled with pain. Look at what eventually

happened to Adam, Eve, and all mankind because they followed the deceptive

ways of Satan. Women have pain in childbirth. Man painfully toils that he may

eat. Death has befallen all that lives upon the earth. Instead of being blessed by

eating from the knowledge of the tree of good and evil as Satan suggested,

mankind has come to know firsthand about evil.

This sure does indicate to us that listening to God and living by His Word

are important aspects to our human existence. Looking at the Ten

Commandments as old-fashioned, outdated standards rather than the eternal

truth of God is a deception of Satan to lead us into sin.

Sin affects our relationship to one another. As soon as Adam and Eve

sinned, their relationship to each other was no longer an open relationship in

which they respected each other and lived in perfect harmony.

In our world today sin has caused us to hide our true identity. We wear

masks to appear to others as if we have it all together, when in reality our hearts

may be filled with sorrow and unresolved problems. Sin has led us to cover-up

our feelings and present ourselves in a way that is acceptable to others.

Sin brings about a severed relationship with God. Before sin entered the

world, man’s relationship with God was intimate and perfect. Adam and Eve

walked in perfect harmony with God in the Garden. Yet, man’s violation of God’s

will by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil disrupted and

destroyed this wonderful relationship. Immediately Adam and Eve were afraid of

God and tried to hide from Him.

Today this pain of sin still affects us as we tell lies to hide the truth. Our

conscience haunts us over things we have done and we question whether a holy

God can possibly forgive us. Many times we live with guilt and worry knowing

that our sinfulness is stench in the nostrils of God. Satan deceives us so that the

gap between us and God widens.

Sin distorts our thinking and leads us to blame others for the sins of which

we are responsible. After Satan had hold of Adam and Eve’s souls, look what

happened. Adam blamed God for creating Eve and pointed to woman as the one

who was responsible for his sin. Eve in turn blamed the serpent for her sinful

demise. Do you see how sin distorts us into believing that when we sin it is

somebody else’s fault? Children say, “He made me do it.” Grown-ups say, “It is

not my fault. It’s the society in which we live.” Sin distorts our minds and leads

us to believe that others are at fault for our sinful actions.

In our text God teaches us something very important about sin. The truth

of Scripture is that God holds each of us accountable for our own sins. We see

this as Adam made his excuses for sinning and Eve made hers, but God held each

one of them responsible for their own actions. God teaches us that there is no

excuse for our sinning. We cannot blame someone else. God has given each one

of us a free will. If we follow another’s sinful suggestion or activity, we are

accountable for not heeding God’s voice not the other person. We cannot solve

the problem of our sin by blaming someone else for our violation of God’s will.

Sin can only be removed through Christ.

In the midst of this whole collapse of life and relationships in the Garden of

Eden, God speaks to us about a Virgin who will bear a Son. This Son will know

pain and suffering, but in the presence of that pain and suffering, Satan will be

defeated and the sins of all people will be washed away. God wrote in Galatians

4:4-5, “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born

under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full

rights of sons.”

Jesus Christ brought His eternal holiness to mankind by taking on human

flesh within the womb of the Virgin Mary. Conceived by the power of the Holy

Spirit, Jesus was born a human being. He lived under God’s Law just as we do, but

He did not sin. He stayed in tune with the Father’s will all the way to the cross

where Jesus laid upon Himself the sins of us all. “He was wounded for our

transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us

peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Yes, the

blood of Jesus Christ shed upon the cross of Calvary paid the debt of our sin and

cleansed us of all our sins. Here is the only positive answer to our sinfulness – we

are forgiven and made holy through the blood of Christ.

This brings us to this time in our worship service. Now is not the time to

deny the fact that Satan has deceived us in our lives. The reality that each of us is

a sinner is seen in the fact that each one of us is going to have to face death. The

Lord had said, “The day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you

will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The result of our sin is noted by the Lord in our

text: “You will return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are

and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). However, because of Christ the

death we will encounter due to sin does not have to affect us eternally. There is

deliverance from sin, death, and the power of the devil through the crucified and

risen Savior. Let us not hide our sin any longer nor blame someone else for our

sinful irresponsibility. Rather, let us be honest with God. Let us behold the reality

of our sins with repentant hearts. He will receive us, forgive us, and grant us the

gift of everlasting life in heaven. Amen.

The Importance of Going to Church by Rev. Roger Rohde (2-26-17)

The Importance of Going to Church

Exodus 24:12-18

Some may view the theme of today’s sermon as a topic that has no

relevance to one’s life. Church going is considered unnecessary by the majority of

Americans today, and it is considered optional by many people who are members

of Christian congregations. That’s what makes today’s message important for us

to hear and to share with others.

This Sunday might be referred to as mountaintop experience Sunday. The

Psalm used in our Introit, the Old Testament Reading, the Epistle Reading and the

Gospel Reading all refer to mountaintop experiences. Mountains frequently

played a significant role in God dealing with His people. It was on Mount Ararat

that Noah’s ark came to rest and God established a covenant with Noah. It was

on one of the mountains in the region of Moriah where God asked Abraham to

sacrifice his son, Isaac, and then provided a ram instead. It was at Mount Carmel

where Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal and the Lord demonstrated His

power by fire. It was at Mount Moriah that the first temple to the Lord was built.

It was at Mount Horeb that God met Elijah in a still small voice and gave him

direction for his life. Our Epistle and Gospel Readings for this Sunday speak of the

mountain on which Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John with

Moses and Elijah being present. It was upon Mount Zion that Jesus instituted the

Lord’s Supper, and it was at Mount Calvary that Jesus’ laid down His life to save all

mankind.

The mountaintop experience has always been important to the relationship

of Christ to His people. Today as we reflect upon Moses going to a mountaintop

to meet with the Lord, we can behold the importance of people going to church

for that is God’s mountaintop experience with His people today.

Going to church begins with a person beholding his need for God’s help. If

someone believes that they can handle life apart from God, why would they come

to church? Jesus Himself said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician,

but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to

repentance” (Mark 2:17).

We don’t go so see our medical doctor just for the fun of it. We don’t go to

the doctor’s office because we enjoy him poking around on our bodies, drawing

our blood, and running all kinds of tests. We go to our physicians to check the

state of our wellness and/or because we have a physical problem that needs

attention.

Jesus is telling us that we are to go to church because we are spiritually sick

and are in need of His forgiveness, love, comfort, and direction. God offers us all

of these things as we come to meet Him in His house where the Word of God is

taught and His Sacraments are administered. Yet, if a person does not believe he

needs these blessings of God in his life, why would he come to the Great

Physician’s house where these gifts are offered?

This is why in our liturgical order of worship we have a personal confession

of sins taking place early in the service. It is critical for our spiritual growth to

humbly acknowledge and confess that without Christ in our lives we are lost

people, headed to the pains of eternal punishment in hell. God instructs us in

James 4:7 and 8: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will

flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” Is that not what

every mountaintop experience in Scripture was about – people being drawn

nearer to God because of their spiritual need for His blessings? If you are satisfied

with where you are at, you will feel no need to draw nearer to the Lord by going

to church where God wants to meet with you for a mountaintop experience.

Going to church centers on being molded and shaped by God’s Word.

When Moses went up on the mountain, God presented Moses with His laws and

commands. God was shaping the life of Moses and the people of Israel with His

Word.

One of the reasons people stay away from church these days is that people

really don’t want to hear what God has to stay, because that would mean they

have to change their lifestyle. God presents His Word to us not to rob us of an

enjoyable lifestyle, but to make our lives rich and eternally blessed in Christ. The

Lord says of His Word: “If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31).

Notice here that God’s Word is designated as the means by which people

can know true and eternal freedom. It is through the Bible that we learn about

Jesus’ death in payment for our sins and His resurrection by which He conquered

death and the grave. It is in the Bible that we learn we belong to God and that no

circumstances or situations can separate us from His eternal love. In Christ we

are set free to live with peace in our hearts and joy in our souls for all eternity.

Church is that place where God’s Word is taught and proclaimed for the

benefit of people. This is why God calls us to not neglect meeting together as

some are in the custom of doing, but to assemble together around His Word and

His Supper for the sustaining and strengthening of our faith.

The common excuse of many is that they don’t have to go to church to hear

God’s Word or study it. That is true. We can and should read and study our

Bibles at home. We can hear sermons on the radio, television, and internet. Why

then should we go to church?

Two things come to mind through today’s text. One, going to church

removes us from the distractions of this life. What God did with Moses on the

mountaintop He could have done on the plain. But would Moses have been as

focused on the Lord? In our text God tells Moses to leave everyone else and go to

the mountaintop. As a result Moses’ focus was totally on the Lord and Moses

beheld the Lord’s glory without distraction. This is also true with regard to Jesus’

transfiguration before Peter, James, and John in today’s Gospel. The

transfiguration of Jesus could have taken place anywhere with a lot more people

experiencing it, but God set apart this mountaintop experience so that those He

gathered together would be totally focused on what Jesus wanted them to learn.

Interestingly enough God uses church buildings to remove people from the

distractions of daily life and be totally focused on His glory and divine truth. That

is why the Lord originally established the building of the elaborate temple in

Jerusalem, and that is why God has blessed us with this beautiful sanctuary today.

Look around you and notice what is found on every window and door, on the

altar, and within the communion rail. Everything in this place is meant to point us

to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. I can’t tell you the number of times

non-members have enter this place with the response, “WOW!” This church

building is so designed that when we enter it the presence of God can be seen,

sensed, and experienced. This place removes us from life’s distractions to see,

hear, and taste of the goodness of the Lord.

A second reason to go to church is that by so doing, we may show that we

are putting Christ first in our lives. To be sure, one can go to church as the

Pharisees did with a hypocritical heart. The Pharisees went to church to make

themselves number one in God’s eyes and hence received none of the blessings

that may come from going to church.

However, when people go to church with a humble and repentant heart,

they are testifying to the importance Jesus has in their life. What we love most

we will do no matter how busy we are. What is important to us will receive our

attention and display itself in our actions.

When we look at our text, it is striking to notice the amount of time Moses

was on the mountaintop. Our text states: “When Moses went up on the

mountaintop, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount

Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the

Lord called to Moses from within the cloud….And Moses stayed on the mountain

forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24: 15, 16, 18). It almost sounds like a

doctor’s appointment when you wait in the waiting room and then in the

examination room before the doctor final comes in to see you. Six days Moses

waited for the Lord and on the seventh day God imparted to him the laws and

commands of God. Obviously Moses waited for the Lord, because the Lord was of

utmost importance to him.

Going to church and giving the Sabbath to the Lord is important for it leads

us to remember the creative and redemptive works of God. All we are and all we

have are because of the gracious nature of God toward us. We are His children,

headed to heavenly bliss, all because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Using

our Sabbath Day to get away from worldly activities and focus on the person,

work, and teachings of God is a witness to our faith in the Lord and His place in

our lives.

What shall we say about the importance of going to church? We can say

with certainty that God has designated our coming together for worship around

His Word and His Table to be a mountaintop experience in which He wishes to

bless and enrich our lives. Through our coming together He wants to shape and

comfort us through His Word so that when we return to daily living we will be

refreshed and strengthened to see everything in the light of His eternal plan and

promises. May we join David and say: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us

go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). Amen.

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit – Roger Rohde

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit

Psalm 31:5

Rev. Roger Rohde

 

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to take place in

October of this year, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has suggested that

congregations take a look at the man who was at the heart of the Reformation,

and whom God used to bring the church back to the Biblical teaching of salvation

by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. The first of these observances took

place last November when we noted the birth of Martin Luther and recalled his

spiritual leadership in making the Bible to once again be the sole source of

authority in the church.

Today we recall the day that Martin Luther died.  Martin Luther was called

to his eternal home on February 18, 1546 at 3 a.m. It is not his actual death that

we want to focus on this morning, but the faith he and all God’s people can have

as they face the reality of death through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In November of 1545, Luther, at the age of 62, had finished presenting a

group of lectures on the book of Galatians. He finished the lecture series by

stating: “I can do no more, for I am too weak.”

The next weeks found Luther resting from his labors.  He rested until a

family made up of three brothers called for his pastoral assistance. The brothers

were fighting over property, money, and power. On January 23, 1546, Luther

traveled to Mansfield to offer pastoral care and spiritual direction to this

situation. The journey was not easy for it was in the midst of a German winter,

and Luther had to cross a river that was swollen and icy. Luther became

physically weaker. In mid-February the family feud had been settled in a court of

law. It was now clear that Luther’s health was failing.

On Monday, February 15th, Luther preached at St. Andrew’s in Eisleben.

Luther ended his sermon rather abruptly, as he announced to the congregation:

“This and much more might be said concerning this Gospel, but I am too weak

and we shall let it go at that.”

Luther was taken to a home across the street from the church.  He rested

there for the next two days. Around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17th, Luther

went to a window in the place he was staying and spoke his usual evening

prayers. Around 10 p.m., Luther went to bed and prayed the words of our text:

“Into Your hands I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful

God.”

This is the prayer of God’s people because God’s people recognize their

dependence upon God. When Luther died, a scrap of paper was found in his

pocket that expressed Luther’s faith and life. The words were written in Latin and

German. Translated Luther had written: “We are beggars.  This is true.”  Luther

rightfully understood that without Christ he was nothing. He knew he had

nothing to offer God, neither physically nor spiritually. Luther confessed as we

confessed today: “I, a poor, miserable sinner confess unto You all my sins and

iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal

and eternal punishment.” In the prayer of our text, God’s people acknowledge

their sin and entrust themselves to Christ their Redeemer.

Luther went to bed on February 17, 1546 in the sure confidence that

through Christ Jesus his sins had been paid, death had been conquered and Satan

had been defeated. Luther fell asleep for a few hours resting in the Lord’s eternal

care. That’s what true believers in Christ do.  God’s people commit themselves to

Christ’s care and rest in the assurance of His eternal embrace.

About 1:00 a.m. on February 18, 1546, Martin Luther woke up from his

sleep in great pain. He quoted the following Bible passages to bring him comfort:

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that

whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Psalm 68:20 –

“Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from

death.” Luke 2:29 – “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

according to Your word.” Luther then repeated the prayer of our text three

times: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord,

faithful God.”

From Luther’s example we see the eternal truth of Scripture being played

out: God’s people live in the certainty of eternal life in heaven through Jesus

Christ, their Savior. Some would say that such certainty is arrogance.  But is it?

Notice Luther’s certainty of heaven did not rest with the labors of his hands, but

upon what Jesus Christ had done for him and all people at Calvary. God’s people

rest their assurance of heaven on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Luther noted

that the eternal security of heaven rests in Christ not in men when he wrote in

the Smalcald Articles of 1530: “The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our

God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-

25). He alone is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (John

1:29), and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all (Isaiah 53:6)…. Upon this

article everything that we teach and practice depends…. Therefore, we must be

certain and not doubt this doctrine.”

Dear brothers and sisters, do we know and are we experiencing the

comfort that comes in committing ourselves to the Lord in faith? Jesus is our

Savior. He is our God Who became like one of us that He could pay the debt of

our sin and bless us with forgiveness, life, and salvation. To commit ourselves to

the Lord through such a prayer as found in today’s text is to acknowledge our

helplessness and Christ’s eternal deliverance.

In Luther’s final moments of life on earth his doctor, Doctor Justus Jonas,

asked him: “Reverend Father, will you remain steadfast in Christ and the doctrine

which you have preached?” Luther replied, “Ja!”  Luther departed this life of a

heart attack. Yet, the certainty by which Luther lived and died was the certainty

that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor

the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all

creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus

our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Is this the certainty by which we live our lives and face the reality of our

death? Are we entrusting our spirits to Christ Jesus, acknowledging our sins and

limitations, and resting in the abundant grace of God in Christ Jesus by which we

alone can enter God’s heavenly kingdom? God bless us with such a faith as we

pray: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful

God.” Amen.

“Changed to be Growing” by Rev. Neil Wonnacott

Epiphany 6 “Changed to be Growing” 02/12/17
Let us pray…the text for our message comes from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, which was read earlier for us.
A baby needs a change. Don’t worry, moms; I’m not suggesting I’ve noticed one of your little ones needs immediate attention. I’m just making a general statement, something we all know to be true. A baby needs a change. Now and then, actually pretty regularly, every baby needs a change. We’ve all been there; we’ve all done that. And many of us have been on the other end, doing the changing. A baby can’t change himself. Oh, they grow out of it. But in the meantime, if babies are going to grow up and be healthy, they need a change.
In our text for this Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, St. Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that they’re babies, still spiritual babies. And if they’re babies, you know what that means: babies need a change. If they’re going to grow up spiritually, they need a change.
Fortunately, St. Paul also tells the Corinthians—and us—that
God Gives Us the Change We Need to Grow.
You know how babies are; they need a lot of changes. And this, our text, won’t be the first time we’ve been changed. Already, for many of us years ago,
I. We’ve been changed!
A. The fact is, every Christian has already been changed.
Every human being is conceived and born in sin—an adorable little baby who nevertheless inside is a spitting, spiting hater, enemy of God.
But when a soul becomes a believer in Christ Jesus, a new person is created inside who loves God, trusts God above all things. That’s every Christian. That was St. Paul and the Christians in Corinth.
There had been a great change in Saul: from his former way of life, from pursuer and persecutor of the Way to proclaimer and planter of the way, the truth, and the life.
There had been a change in the Corinthians. They had heard and believed the Gospel that changes people, so that Paul can now address them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1:2). This change had happened largely through the ministry of two men, Paul and Apollos: “servants through whom you believed” (v 5). Each had preached the Gospel that changes people so miraculously.
B. So how are we like the people of Corinth? We are changed already
by the Good News!
We’ve been brought to faith in Christ—many of us by Baptism as babies.
Before we even remember, the Holy Spirit created that new, believing person in us. Already back when we were needing many changes a day, we were changed!
In certain areas of my life, I’m not a big fan of change. A simple example: when the furniture is arranged in our home, its place has been determined. It doesn’t need to be moved twice a year or every five years or ever!
II. But we’re still babies who need a change (v 1).
A. Change was still needed in the congregation at Corinth (vv 1–4).
Change was needed so there could be growth: from mother’s milk to solid food, from people of the flesh to people of the Spirit. There were still those sinful rivalries in the church—factions for Paul or Apollos, members against one another, though Paul and Apollos themselves weren’t divided at all.
B. So how are we like the people of Corinth? We are changed already
by the Good News, and we still need to be changed!
Are we jealous? Do we have rivalries? That’s behaving only in a fleshly, human, not spiritual way. These sins that separate us from God and one another—even in the church—are evidence that we’re still babies! This leads only to death.
We, too, are people of the flesh who need to hear that one became flesh for all people.
III. The Son of God made the change we need.
Christ, the unchanging God, nevertheless did become flesh for all jealousy, for
all strife, for all who are behaving only in a human way. And since “each will receive his wages according to his labor” (v 8b), we rejoice in what our Christ Jesus has done:
1. For the wage of His labor on the cross is full and free forgiveness.
2. And the wage of His labor in (and out of) the grave is life new and never-ending.
3. Even more: these wages, these gifts, of Jesus’ cross and His open tomb are delivered to us in the simple water and strong Word of Holy Baptism and the Supper of our Lord’s very body and blood.
This is the food we babies need to grow. Hunger and malnutrition are serious issues in the United States and around the world. Some 8.5 million Americans experience hunger on a daily basis, while 17 million children worldwide suffer from acute malnutrition, a deadly condition.
Without sufficient food, without sufficient nutrients, and without sufficient protein, there will be growth failure. One form of growth failure is “wasting” it is characterized by rapid weight loss. Another form is “stunting,” which is a slow and cumulative debilitating process.
St. Paul addresses spiritual malnutrition in 1 Corinthians 3. The Christians in Corinth should have moved from mother’s milk to solid food (3:2). The fact that there were still jealousy and rivalries among them demonstrated that they needed the one food that nourishes peace and harmony—the same food we need to be fed—the rich nutrients of the Gospel: forgiveness, life, salvation. And God gives us this food, even as we’re still babies.
This is how God changes us. Only God can give this change!
IV. And when God changes us, we grow (vv 5–6).
Let’s say He gets us ready for kindergarten. That’s the place where bigger
babies, kinder, children, are planted, watered, grow.
There is growth beyond divisions when Paul and Apollos—and the man standing in front of you—are seen correctly—not as something in themselves, but as the Lord’s servants. There is growth after watering and planting. Servants do this work yes, the servant called to be your pastors, and these servants wait with patience (vv 7–9).
And, just as God gives growth in His creation, so He is the source of growth in His new creation, the Church. For the Church is God’s field! God is always about change. God is always about growth.
In many parts of the country, it’s not even close to planting time Fields and gardens have not been plowed or tilled to receive seeds.
But even though it’s February, it is planting and watering time. The Epiphany season—a time to consider and commit to Christ’s mission for his Church—is always a time for God to give growth.
And the Church faithfully sows the seed of Christ’s Gospel and faithfully waters what is planted, that the harvest will be greater and greater.
For this truth must be affirmed and celebrated (v 7b): It is “only God who gives the growth.” Yes, God makes the change. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life eternal. Amen.

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