Stand firm. Time is running out.

nullPentecost 26
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 18, 2018
Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-13

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

The sand slowly, steadily, falls through the narrow opening in the middle of the hourglass and drops onto the large pile of sand below the neck.  As you watch, the sand never speeds up, never slows down, it just continues to fall and the sand pile at the bottom continues to grow…ever so slowly.

You look up to see how much sand is left, but the top of the hourglass is painted black.  There is no way to know how much sand remains.  This is the way it is with time.  Time for us is not so much hands on a clock going round and round but more like an hourglass with a blackened top.

This applies to the time of your life.  You can count how much time has passed, how many birthdays you have had, but you don’t know how much more time there is to go.  You know that you will die one day, but you do not know if it will be soon, or after a while.  How much sand remains in the top of your hourglass?  It also applies to the time of this world.  There is a very large pile of sand that has already passed through the narrow neck but you do not know how much more sand there is to come.  How long until the last day?  There may be only a few more grains, or there may be a tremendous pile of sand still to go.  You don’t know when the end will come for you individually or for the world, but you do know the end is coming.  You do not know when, but you know it will happen.   How much sand is left in the top of the glass?

In our Old Testament reading Daniel writes about the time when the sand runs out, Daniel 12:1 (ESV) 1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.[1]     At this time the multitudes that sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken from the dead.  Some will awake to everlasting life.  Some awake to shame and everlasting contempt.  We see here clearly that the Old Testament teaches a resurrection of the dead.

The time is coming when the sand will run out.  The thought of this can cause you to be downcast and frightened.  But, on that day, the Archangel Michael will arise and we also find Michael also in Revelation, Chapter 12.

Revelation 12:7-9 (ESV) 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him [2]

Michael cast the devil down from heaven.  The devil has been cast down, so do not be downcast.  Jesus has conquered sin for you.  Jesus has conquered death for you.  Jesus has conquered the devil for you.  Jesus, the Lamb of God dying on the cross and rising from the dead destroyed the power of the devil to deceive you; Jesus destroyed the power of Satan to accuse you.  Do not be downcast.  The devil has been cast down.

As a baptized child of God you have God’s name watered onto you.  God has declared you to be His own.  He promises to save you.  The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus have been credited to you.  All the sacrifices of birds, and lambs, and bulls at the temple did not take away sins.  Jesus takes away sins.  Jesus is the once-for-all sacrifice; the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

            When the sand runs out and the last day has come, it will be a great day for those in Christ.  It is truly something to look forward to with great expectation.  Something for which to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV) 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.[3]

Jesus, the Lamb of God, has saved you and is sanctifying you; making you holy.  Your name has been written in the book of life and on the last day you will be delivered to eternal life.  You receive the Body and Blood of Christ to strengthen and preserve you in true faith to life everlasting.  In Jesus you have the promise that on the last day you will shine like the brightness of the sky and live forever with Jesus.  On that day when the sand runs out, there will be no more sin, no more evil, no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more addiction, no more grief, no more trouble, no more tears.

When the sand runs out and the last day has come, it will be a great day for those in Christ.  It is truly something to look forward to with great expectation.  Something for which to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

You expectantly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” but in the meantime you wait and watch the sand fall slowly through the hourglass of time and you endure the difficulties of this life.  Jesus warns about many troubles.  There will be arrests and trials and executions.  People will hate you because you have the name of Jesus on you.  Those who put their faith in the things of this world will hate those who have faith in Jesus.  The things of this world will pass away, but you who have faith in Jesus will endure.

The disciples spend most of their time in the humble areas around the Sea of Galilee.  So these country boys are quite impressed by the magnificent temple in Jerusalem.  One of them exclaims, “Mark 13:1 (ESV) 1 … “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”[4]  The disciple is awe-struck by the temple which Herod the Great rebuilt and overhauled to become a grand architectural marvel.

Mark 13:2 (ESV) 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” [5]  In 70 AD the Romans do just that and destroy the temple and leave it a flattened field of smoldering debris.

The magnificent things of this world will pass away.  That shiny new car will so soon be a rusty bucket of bolts.  That new phone, new computer, new clothes, soon are obsolete and out of style.  Beauty and strength will fade.  The things of the world pass away.  Endure to the end clinging to eternal truth.  In the California wildfires over a thousand homes have been destroyed.  With horrifying speed the flames transform wonderful houses into piles of smoldering rubble.  The things of this life; even our lives themselves, will pass away.  There will be trouble.  Jesus teaches, Mark 13:6-8 (ESV) 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.[6]

Life is full of trouble.  The things that people want to cling to will not endure; but the truth of Jesus Christ will endure.  Stand firm through these troubled times with the confidence that comes from the blood of Jesus.  Hebrews 10:22-23 (ESV)
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.[7]  The devil has been thrown out of heaven, but he is still actively pursuing those who follow Jesus.  He was thrown out of heaven and could not destroy the woman or her child.  Revelation 12:17 (ESV) 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus…. [8]

The devil is angry and is at war against you with his lies and accusations.  Hold fast to the confession of our hope in Jesus Christ.  Do it together.  It is dangerous to try to be a solo Christian because you do not go to war alone.  You put on the armor of God and together stand firm against the assaults of the devil because you know Jesus has already defeated him.  Endurance through difficult times is done together, as the Church, the Body of Christ on earth.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.[9]

Times are tough.  People will hate you and worse.  Do not be downcast.  The devil has been cast down.  He has been defeated.  His war against us is only a last gasp of desperation.  Stand firm.  Keep meeting together, keep watch, endure.  The sand is running out and the end is coming.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[9]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

The church is full of hypocrites

nullLWML Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 11, 2018
1 Kings 17:8-16, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

No one likes a hypocrite, someone who pretends to be good, but is actually evil. and so most folks agree with our Gospel reading today telling us how Jesus had “a greater condemnation” for the hypocrites among the scribes.

Today’s reading is a record of Jesus’ teaching in the temple during the week leading up to His crucifixion.  The scribes He is talking about are the temple scribes.  These are the ones who are actually in charge of copying the Holy Scriptures from one scroll onto another.  They write the holy words of God over and over again and this repetition means that they know the Scriptures very, very well.  They know the scriptures and yet use their great knowledge to rob widows.

Jesus reserves His greatest condemnation for hypocrites because, by definition, hypocrites know better.  You can’t fool others unless you already know how things work.  Hypocrites know that what they are doing is wrong and yet they wear their consciences down to nothing and live a lie.

Sadly, hypocrites lie to themselves more than anyone else.  One day every hypocrite will stand before God in judgment and yet they don’t think about that day.  Perhaps they have convinced themselves that there is no God and therefore no judgment.  Perhaps they rationalize that their hypocrisy is justified and God will not hold them accountable for it.  Perhaps they are hypocrites and don’t even realize it.

The really sad thing about hypocrites lying to themselves is that some of them hear a sermon like this and say, “You tell ‘em pastor; those folks really need to hear this.”

Now, the first thing that I, as your pastor, must do is preach this sermon to myself.  I am a hypocrite.  I lie to myself.  I lie to others.  I even lie to God.  When I hear Jesus condemn hypocrites, I need to understand that He is talking to me.  I need to hear this sermon.

You need to hear this sermon.  How many times have you been a hypocrite since this service started?  Earlier you said that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  Did you really mean it?  You said you deserved God’s present and eternal punishment.  That means that you deserve a miserable life here on earth and eternal punishment in hell.  Did you really mean it?  Were you really sorry or just kind of half-hearted about your sorrow?  Did you really repent, or just sort of repent?  How much of the worship service have you done on auto-pilot while thinking about something else?

What about the life you lead after the service is over.  What are you like when you are alone?  Does your attitude toward sin change when you don’t think you will get caught?  Does the Word of God that you listen to in here actually guide the way you live out there?

Many people criticize the church by noting that it is full of hypocrites.  That is sort of dumb.  It is like criticizing a hospital because it is full of sick people.  An honest examination shows that all of us are hypocrites … and murderers and adulterers and thieves.  I have broken all of the commandments and so have you.  We are in desperate need of healing from our sin.  We are not members of the church because we are so good or wonderful or righteous.  We are members of the church because we are sinners who need forgiveness.

We can get a hint for the source of the forgiveness that we need when we examine the second part of today’s Gospel.  Here we encounter a widow who gives all she has.  This woman may be one of the victims of the hypocrites that Jesus condemns.  With this widow Jesus does something that only God can do.  He looks into her heart and sees a faith that relies on the promises of God.

This widow’s gift is a foreshadowing of the gift that Jesus will give a few days after this.  This widow gives all she has financially.  Jesus will give all that He has … period!

Just as this poor widow offers her whole life at that offering box, so the Holy One who watches her, offers His whole life on the cross.  Here is One who is never a hypocrite – who never does anything that deserves condemnation.  Here is One who endures the greatest condemnation and makes payment for the sins of the world.  When Jesus Christ suffers and then dies on the cross for us, He offers up His life as the perfect sacrifice that satisfies the justice of God.

Because Jesus Christ lives a perfect life that is free of hypocrisy and every other sin, the grave cannot hold Him.  Although His friends lay Him in the tomb on Friday, He rises from the dead on Sunday.  He now lives forever and offers us a whole life.  Through His sacrificial death and His triumphant resurrection He offers us forgiveness for all our sins including the sin of hypocrisy.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to give us the same faith that the poor widow in today’s Gospel has.  He works through the audible Word of God as we hear the readings and the absolution, and He works through the tangible Word of God that we eat and drink in the sacrament.  The faith that the Holy Spirit gives us, receives the gifts that Jesus Christ earned for us as He gave His life for us.  The faith that the Holy Spirit works in us through Word and Sacrament, gives us a share in the Kingdom of God.  In that kingdom, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The church is full of hypocrites because the world is full of hypocrites.  Hypocrisy is but one aspect of the sin that plagues us all.  As sinful human beings, we all want to reject God’s will for us … even if that will is the forgiveness of our sins.  The world doesn’t understand that forgiveness is the true purpose of the church.  Therefore, it does not see the real difference between the church and the world.

The true difference between the world and the church is that the church is full of hypocrites who are forgiven.  It is also full of thieves who are forgiven, liars who are forgiven, murderers who are forgiven, and adulterers who are forgiven.  The church is full of sinners who are forgiven.  The world does not understand this forgiveness and therefore sees no point to the church.

Today we celebrate and thank God for the ministry of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League which knows the point of the church. For 76 years the LWML has been supporting mission work nationally and internationally. The women truly are Lutheran Women in Mission, and they are also women of encouragement. The LWML hasn’t just been collecting pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in their mite boxes; they have also been encouraging women and men in their faith walk to find true rest in the forgiveness of Jesus.

Over the 76 years of ministry, the LWML has lived through major challenges in our world and country, and even in their organization. Through all of the challenges and uncertainties, the LWML has placed their trust in God and have looked to Him for direction. Lives have been touched through their work and people have received rest that comes from our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Let us be encouraged in our own witness by the witness of the LWML. There are people all around us that struggle with insecurity in this fast-changing world. We have true rest to offer them in a God who loves them and gave His Son for them. Let’s live in this rest and share it with others because the day is coming when every person will leave this world behind.  Those who leave without faith in Jesus Christ will leave without forgiveness.  They will suffer the eternal condemnation that their hypocrisy and other sins have earned.

Those who have faith in Jesus Christ already have forgiveness.  They have left their sin and its condemnation behind.  They will enter the eternal joy of heaven.  They will enjoy the eternal peace of Him who gave all that He had, even His whole life, for you.  Amen

Boasting is the opposite of faith.

null

Reformation Day (observed) 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 28, 2018
Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, Matthew 11:12-19

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Let’s play a quick game of naming opposites.

Light               Dark.

All                   None

Down              Up

Clean               Dirty

Empty                         Full

Love                Hate

The thing with opposites is that they cannot both occupy the same space at the same time.  You cannot have both “all” and “none” in the same place.  You cannot have both “love” and “hate”.  You cannot be both “empty” and “full”.  So, what about “faith”?  What is the opposite of faith?

Today we observe Reformation Day which falls each year on October 31.  On that day in 1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Those of you who have been on the Germany trip have stood outside that church looking at those doors pondering the great effect posting the 95 theses has had on the world; spiritually and politically.  Luther emphasized three great Solas.  Sola Gratia, Sola Fides, Sola Scriptura.  Grace alone.  Faith alone.  Scripture alone.  Our Epistle Lesson today from Romans addresses the middle Sola; faith alone.

Romans 3:27-28 (ESV) 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.[1]

What is the opposite of faith?  It seems from this reading that an obvious opposite of faith is works.  Faith trusts in what Jesus has done, works puts its trust in what you do.

But there is another opposite of faith in these verses.  That opposite is boasting.  Boasting looks in the wrong direction and focuses on the wrong thing.  Your boasting has you looking away from God and instead looking to yourself.  Looking to your own intelligence; your own goodness; your own perseverance, and boasting has you telling others how good you are compared to how bad those others are.

It is quite easy to fall into the mindset of thinking you are better, smarter, and holier than others.  I know I have.  Far too many times I have fallen prey to the temptation of boasting.  The temptation to boasting is particularly acute for Lutherans on Reformation Day.  It is easy to start to think we are just so much smarter; so much purer, so much holier, so much better, than those in the Roman Catholic Church and other churches.

Now, I am very glad Martin Luther rediscovered the truth of the Gospel and I am very glad to be a Lutheran.  But I am no better than anyone else.  I remain, by nature, sinful and unclean.  You are no better than anyone else.  You remain, by nature, sinful and unclean.

In the truth rediscovered by Martin Luther there is no place for boasting about yourself and yet there is a great desire in all of us to boast.  There is a terrible tendency to look at others and what they do and judge yourself to be better, smarter, holier than that other person.  The devil loves to have you look down on others and boast about yourself.  Think for a moment.  Who is that person; those people, in your life; in your family, at school, at work, at church that you think you are better than them?  Who is it that you have found yourself looking down upon and puffing yourself up.  Who have you talked badly about or to?  It is awfully attractive to believe you are better than that other person.  Too often you find yourself in the position of the Pharisee in Luke 18

Luke 18:10-14 (ESV) 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [2]

The Pharisee talks to God all about all the good things that the Pharisee is doing and how he is better than the tax collector.  The tax collector pleads for mercy.

The boasting one talks and talks and talks, all about herself and how good she is and how smart she is and how holy she is.  With boasting there is no room for faith.

So, what is the cure?  What is the antidote?  What medicine can the boasting one take to drive out his boasting and make room for faith?  The remedy for boasting is the law of God.  The law of God stops the boasting.

Romans 3:19 (ESV) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.[3]

The boasting one talks about himself.  The law stops his boasting.  Hearing the law of God applied to your life shows you your sin and takes away any grounds for boasting.

So, what is the cure?  What is the antidote?  What medicine can the boasting one take to drive out his boasting and make room for faith?  The remedy for boasting is the law of God.  The law of God stops the boasting.

Romans 3:20 (ESV) 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. [4]  Romans 3:22-23 (ESV)
22 … For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,[5]

Boasting looks in the wrong direction and looks to the wrong things.  Boasting talks.  The law silences the boasting.

Through the law comes knowledge of sin.  The law shows you that you are a sinner who needs a savior.  The law shows you your need for the gift of the righteousness of God.  The law cannot save you.  The law points you away from yourself and points you to Jesus.  The law leaves you silent letting another speak for you.  Mark 15:34 (ESV) 34 … “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[6]

John 19:30 (ESV) 30 … “It is finished,” … [7]

Mark 2:9 (ESV) 9 … ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ …[8]

Faith does not look at itself.  Faith looks in the right direction and looks at the right thing.  Faith looks to Jesus, the Christ, suffering and dying and rising for you.  Faith looks to the blood of Jesus as the propitiation; the appeasement of God.  Faith looks to the resurrected Jesus as evidence that the payment is enough; all your sins are forgiven; death is conquered forever; you have eternal life in Christ.  Faith looks to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Faith looks to Jesus as the one who justifies.  Faith looks to the only thing that can save.  Faith looks to the blood of Jesus; to the cross of Christ; to the empty tomb.  Faith alone.

The cross silences self-righteous boasting because in faith there is no boasting except in the cross of Christ.  On that cross outside Jerusalem 2,000 years ago you find forgiveness, life and salvation.  From the cross is poured out for you mercy and grace delivered to you in the Word of God, in baptism, and in the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion.  In the cross and the empty tomb you find the source and object of your faith.  Jesus for you.  Grace alone.  Faith alone.  Scripture alone.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

Getting into the Kingdom of God is impossible.

nullPentecost 22 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 21, 2018
Ecclesiastes 5:10-20,

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Mark 10:23 (ESV) 23 … Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”[1]

How difficult it will be for those with wealth.  I guess it’s going to be rough on the last day for those rich folks.  Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos…wouldn’t want to be one of those wealthy people on the last day.  Although…it might be might be kind of fun to be one of them for a while; living that lifestyle of the rich and famous; winning a billion dollars in the lottery.  But Jesus says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  Those poor, wealthy people.

Of course being wealthy is relative.  According to a World Bank report this week almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day.  I have heard that to be rich by world standards is to have more than one pair of shoes and get to choose what you eat.  Sometimes we hear talk about that terribly selfish top 1% of wealthy people.  By world standards an income above $32,000 per year puts in you in the top 1% of world earners.  You are all rich.  Many of you are in the top 1%.

Mark 10:23 (ESV) 23 … “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”[2]

C’mon Jesus.  Are you serious?  Are you talking about us?  How difficult it will be for us to enter the kingdom of heaven?  The disciples are amazed at Jesus’ words and Jesus continues to teach them, “Children,” he says.  He calls them children which takes us back a few verses to when Jesus sees the disciples keeping the children away from him.  Mark 10:14-15 (ESV)  14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”[3]

Children are weak and vulnerable and trusting.  Jesus addresses the disciples as children.  “Mark 10:24-25 (ESV) 24 … “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”[4]

I have trouble getting a piece of thread through the eye of a needle; there is no way a camel has a chance.  It is impossible.  Mark 10:26 (ESV) 26 And [the disciples] were exceedingly astonished, and said to [Jesus], “Then who can be saved?”[5]

Who can be saved?  A camel cannot get through the eye of a needle.  It is impossible.  You cannot get yourself into the kingdom of God.  It is impossible; for the wealthy; for anyone.  Jesus has set the stage and is about to drop a teaching of colossal importance on the disciples; and on you and me.

Mark 10:27 (ESV) 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”[6]  It is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.

You cannot do it.  It has already been done for you.  Your sin is an insurmountable barrier to getting into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus has destroyed that barrier.  Jesus laid down His life to save you.  He has taken away your sin and brings you into the Kingdom.  Jesus does it for you.

Immediately following Gospel reading today, as Jesus and the disciples continue on their journey, Jesus next tells the disciples how he is going to do it.  Mark 10:33-34 (ESV) 33 … “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” [7]

Jesus does it for you.  It is all so counter to your natural way of thinking.  You want to believe you can do it yourself because you want to be independent.  You want to be strong.  You want to be self-sufficient, but you are not.  Before God you are a weak, helpless, dependent child.  And Jesus welcomes you and gives you the Kingdom of God.

            You cannot do it.  It has already been done for you.  Your sin is an insurmountable barrier to getting into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus has destroyed that barrier.  Jesus laid down His life to save you.  He has taken away your sin and brings you into the Kingdom.  Jesus does it for you.

This morning we welcomed little Sloane Sheley into the Kingdom of God through the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus’ perfection and holiness were watered onto Sloane and she became a child of God.  There are many churches that say that children should not be baptized until they can make a decision for themselves.  But we see in today’s Gospel reading that it is not about what you do or what you say; it is not about you doing your part; it is about God’s gift to you of eternal life in His Kingdom.  Jesus welcomes the little children and gives them forgiveness, life and salvation.  It’s not about you; it’s about Jesus for you.

Salvation is a gift from God the Father, to you, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot save yourself, but you can get lost.  You can get distracted by the things of this world.  There are dangers to your faith in God.

Our lessons last week and this week warn about the danger of wealth; the danger of loving money.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV) 10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.[8]

The love of money is spiritually dangerous; it can lead you away from fear, love and trust in God alone.  Being in the Kingdom of God brings you great joy.  Love of money takes away your joy.

Now we need money; it is part of life, but we cannot love money and that is an easy temptation to give in to.  We think about money a lot.  There is a lot of pressure about money in life; there are lots of bills that come with being an adult.  It is easy to become obsessed by money because it is easy to live above your means.

This is one great benefit of each week giving a generous offering to the Lord’s work at Immanuel.  To give a sacrificial offering off the top each week and not from the leftovers helps keep money in perspective.  How much constitutes a sacrificial, first-fruits offering is different for everyone.  Ten percent is not a law in the New Testament covenant, but I use it as a guideline to avoid letting my selfishness and greediness get in the way of generosity.  For some the right amount may be less, for others more.  Keep a healthy attitude toward money no matter how little or how much you have.  Live below your means.  Be generous with those who work for you or serve you.  Tip generously.  Be generous with those around you.  Give generously to various charities that provide help to others.  Give generously to the Lord’s work here at Immanuel.  Give cheerfully, give regularly.  Give each week whether you are in worship or not.  Offering is a gift to the Lord’s work, not an admission price.  Keep the right perspective of money as a temporary tool and if you find you are starting to love money, give something away.  Give away more.  Be more generous.

As a Christian living life in the Kingdom of God you will find more joy in your limited possessions than an unbelieving billionaire will find in his great wealth.  You, as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, find joy in simply eating and drinking and finding enjoyment in your toil for the few days God gives you.  As a baptized child of God you have more than anyone else; because you have Jesus.

It is indeed impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  It is impossible for you to get into the Kingdom of God on your own.  And yet, you are in the Kingdom of God because Jesus brought you in.  Jesus did the impossible.  Jesus paid your price.  Jesus saved you.  Jesus is the way.  Jesus is the only way.  Jesus is your way.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

First Commandment Problems

nullPentecost 21, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Oct. 14, 2018
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Mark 10:17-22

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Long story short.  This rich man gets to meet Jesus but then goes away full of sorrow.  What happened?  The man must have some prominence because he is able to get through the disciples right to Jesus and kneel down before Him.  Just prior to this we see the disciples keeping children away from Jesus.

The disciples rebuke the children and welcome the rich man.  Jesus welcomes the children and rebukes the rich man.  Why is that?  What is going on here?  What we have here is a first commandment problem.  What is the first commandment?

“You shall have no other Gods.”  And who remembers Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism?  “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”

Children have little trouble fearing, loving and trusting.  Children are small and weak and powerless.  Children are well equipped to fear, love and trust others.  This is how they deal with their parents, teachers and other adults.  Not so much for the rich man.  “You shall have no other Gods.”

The young man knows this commandment, he thinks he understands it and is obeying it, but Jesus will show him that he has another god.  The young man comes to Jesus because he has heard about this eternal life stuff, and he has heard about this teacher Jesus, and he wants to get eternal life.

Mark 10:17 (ESV) 17 … “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”[1]  At first glance this seems like a pretty normal question.  What must I do?  But when we look more carefully we can tell just from his question that he doesn’t get it.  What must I do to inherit?  Inheritance does not come from what you do, but rather from who you are.  It comes from your identity.  A child inherits from her parents because she is their child.  Eternal life is an inheritance for the children of God.  It is an inheritance for those who are in Christ; those who are marked by God in the waters of baptism and covered by Jesus’ blood.  Eternal life is for those who wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness covering over all their sins.  The rich young man wants to know what he can do to obtain a gift which is freely given to the children of God.

Jesus tries to give the young man some clues.  Mark 10:18 (ESV) 18 …“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.[2]

Jesus then says, Mark 10:19-20 (ESV) 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”[3]

The man is rich and he believes he is good enough.  He has kept all the commandments.  He is a good guy and he knows he is good with God because he is wealthy, and wealth, as everyone thinks they know, is how God shows his blessings to you. This man has a lot of possessions so he must be blessed.  The man believes he is good enough and just needs to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Maybe make a donation?  Feed some poor people?  Build someone a home?  Pay someone?  What must he do?

Jesus looks at the man and loves him.  He knows what the man is thinking and he knows the man fears, loves and trusts in something other than God.  Jesus wants to correct the man’s thinking and believing and bring him into the kingdom of God.

Jesus gives it to him straight.  Jesus does not soften the truth, or spin the truth to be more palatable.  He does not give a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.  Jesus gives the man the full, hard truth. Mark 10:21 (ESV) 21 … “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[4]

Jesus knows what it is that this young man fears, loves and trusts…it is his wealth; his possessions.  Jesus gives him strong medicine and the man goes away sorrowful.  “You lack one thing.”  The man lacks fear, love and trust in God above all things.

The man’s fist is closed so tightly around his wealth there is no room for anything else.  There is no room for Jesus.

Money is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Money and possessions must always be held in an open hand so that wealth is used in service to others.  Wealth can come and wealth can go.  It is a tool, but it cannot become the object of fear, love and trust.

Jesus gives the rich young man strong medicine but the man is not willing to take it.  The man wants eternal life, but he loves his possessions more.  We hear this strong warning in our own lives.  We hear this warning from Jesus not to cling to anything except the cross of Christ.

Cling to the cross of Christ.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  Salvation comes from Jesus alone.  Fear, love and trust Jesus, God in flesh, God with us, as a child trusts her parents.  The other nine commandments all point us back to the first commandment because when we break any of them we are also breaking the first.  Luther reminds of this in the explanations to the other commandments which all begin: “We should fear and love God so that…”  When we break any commandment it is because we are fearing, loving and trusting something else more than God.  We all have a lot to repent for and so we turn back to Jesus and cling to the cross.

Still today there is great temptation to trust in wealth as evidence of God’s favor.  Quarterly statements just came out and we are tempted to judge our value as people by what is reported by T. Rowe Price or Fidelity.  We are tempted to fear, love and trust money and possessions.

We are tempted to cling to other things as well.  Many are brought to ruin because they cling to their own wisdom and they twist God’s word to conform to their own understanding and believe God is pleased with them.  Others are brought to destruction because they cling to their own good works as evidence that they are in good standing with God.  But the evidence of God’s favor is not a fat 401K.  It is not wisdom and knowledge.  It is not your good works.  The strange evidence of God’s favor is the bleeding, dying Jesus hanging in agony on the cross that Friday for you.  The evidence is that same Jesus risen from the dead on Sunday morning.

Beware of what you cling to.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  You are a baptized child of God.  You have the inheritance of eternal life.  Not from anything that you have done, but from what Jesus has done for you.  Come to the altar of the Lord to receive the fruits of that cross.  Come as humble children fearing, loving and trusting God.

Is there something you are clinging to other than the cross of Christ?  Let go.  Open your hand.  Release your grip on anything other than the cross of Christ.  Hold money and possessions and knowledge and works in an open hand where things can come and go.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  You are a baptized child of God.  You live in the inheritance of eternal life.  Cling only to the cross of Jesus.  And know that in Christ you are safe, because when you cling to the cross it is not you holding on the Jesus.  Jesus holding on to you.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Christians are all lowly sinners needing Jesus

nullPentecost 19 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 30, 2018
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

Sermons online: 

Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

The disciples have been having a rough time of it here in chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark.  It starts out well enough for Peter, James and John going with Jesus up on the mountain where Jesus is transfigured before them and Moses and Elijah appear and God the Father speaks.

But then they come back down the mountain — Jesus, Peter, James and John.  And as the four come back to the rest of the disciples they find them in an argument.

A man has brought his son to Jesus’ disciples be healed of a demon and the disciples can’t do it.  But why the arguing?  The Jewish scribes are questioning the disciples’ abilities and it seems that the disciples have gotten defensive.  The poor man and his possessed son have been forgotten and they have shrunk back into the crowd while the disciples and scribes go at it.  You can imagine the scene.  The scribes accusing, “You can’t drive out the demon.  You’re useless.  You’re frauds.”

The disciples responding, “No we’re not!”

“Yes you are!”

“No we’re not!”,         Jesus shows up, puts the focus back on the man and his son, and drives out the demon without difficulty.  It is a pretty low moment for the disciples.

On their way to Capernaum Jesus tells the disciples that “Mark 9:31 (ESV) 31 … “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”[1]

Oh gracious.  That’s not good.  Jesus is going to be killed.  As the disciples continue their journey it starts to dawn on them.  Hey!  When Jesus gets killed which one of us is going to take over?  Which one of us is next in line?  Which one of us is the greatest?

When they get to Capernaum Jesus calls them out for discussing who is the greatest and tells them, Mark 9:35-37 (ESV)  35 … “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”[2]

Another rough day for the disciples as Jesus pops their puffed up dreams of greatness and tells them to be humble and serve one another and welcome children.

Then the disciples see someone driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  It is not one of the 12 disciples.  It is not someone authorized by Jesus.  It is some outsider casting out demons.  This must drive the disciples crazy.  They, the 12, the guys closest to Jesus, are having trouble casting out demons and then this nobody shows up and he is doing it.  Who does he think he is?  What does he think he is doing?  The disciples try to stop him from casting out demons because this person is not one of them.

But Jesus rebukes the disciples again.  Mark 9:39-40 (ESV) 39 … “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.[3]

Jesus is saying that there is not an “in” group and an “out” group; there is not an “us” and a “them” when it comes to the followers of Jesus.  The disciples thought they were pretty special, but they are just lowly sinners who know they need Jesus and are called to be humble servants.

There is a difficult message here for us in the Church.  We’re not so special.  We are lowly sinners who know we need Jesus and we are called to be humble servants.  We do not get to look down on other Christians as if we are better.

…if the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod disappeared tomorrow, Christianity would continue on.  As Lutherans there is no room for boasting or thinking we are somehow better than anyone else.  Because the one thing we can be sure about is that Christians in any other Christian church are also lowly sinners who know they need Jesus.

Now I believe that conservative Lutherans, as a whole, have the best grasp of Biblical truth of any church body.  When Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for challenging the pope, he didn’t design something new, but rather went back to an older form of the Catholic Church; he went back from Scripture and Tradition to Scripture alone.  Our church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is not perfect; it does not have all the answers, but I believe it is currently the best there is; or I would go to where I believed they taught the truth in greater purity.

That being said, if the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod disappeared tomorrow, Christianity would continue on.  As Lutherans there is no room for boasting or thinking we are somehow better than anyone else.  Because the one thing we can be sure about is that Christians in any other Christian church are also lowly sinners who know they need Jesus.

We can discuss differences.  We can lovingly warn about false teachings creeping into churches.  We should remain on guard against false teachers; against wolves in sheep’s clothing, but we dare not think we are somehow better believers than those in other church bodies.

If you meet someone who attends a small Pentecostal church you know you are both lowly sinners who know you need Jesus.  If you meet someone who is a very traditional Roman Catholic who attends Mass at the Cathedral, you know you are both lowly sinners who know you need Jesus.

We can, and should, discuss theological differences, and they are many.  There are many false teachings in churches that need to be addressed and discussed.  There are legitimate, serious differences.  Some churches teach that there is no salvation outside of their church body.  There are those that teach that good works save you.  Some teach that baptism is something you do for God when you are old enough to make a decision.  Some teach a prosperity gospel.  Some use the Gospel to reduce the law so much that they teach there is no sin.  These errors are serious and dangerous.  There are many churches with many different teachings and styles and we never want to reduce the faith down to, “All churches are the same as long as you love Jesus.”  But we also never want to speak against them where the Gospel is being proclaimed and people are being fed the Word of God.  We should not look down on the work of the Gospel being done by others.  We are all lowly sinners who need Jesus.  We never want to start believing that Lutherans will be the only ones in heaven.

One great danger of looking down on someone else as a Christian is that you may cause them to believe that their faith is not good enough and they are outside of salvation.  You could cause someone to despair and believe they are not redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  It is a grave sin to push someone away from Jesus.

Mark 9:42 (ESV)42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.[4]

We do not get to judge or look down on others.  Judgement is above our pay grade.  We cling to the cross of Christ because that is where salvation is found.  We point others to the cross of Christ because that is where salvation is found for all people; only in the cross of Christ.  Romans 3:22-24 (ESV) 22 … For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…[5]

“Us” and “Them” divisions can also happen also within a congregation.  We can start to think that some folks are better Christians than others because of who they are or what they do.  This is an error.  We are all lowly sinners who know we need Jesus, without distinction.  We all come here as equals.  The 80 year old lifetime member and the one who is here for the first time; we are all the same.  We are all lowly sinners who know we need Jesus.

And the great good news is that Jesus is here for lowly sinners.  Jesus is here to speak to you the amazing Good News, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Jesus is here to feed you with His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Jesus is here in your midst to hear your prayers and praises and to declare you to be a saint; to assure you of eternal life in him.

It is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  So don’t point people to us.  Point people to Jesus.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

The muscle memory of the tongue

null

Pentecost 17 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 16, 2018
Isaiah 50:4-10, James 3:1-12, Mark 9:14-29

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

I have taught three of my children how to drive and have one left.  This is not one of my great joys of parenting.  It is difficult and awkward for a new driver to figure out how to coordinate brake pedal, gas pedal, steering wheel, mirrors, and turn signals to control their own car and to keep an eye out for all the other cars on the road.  It is pretty scary for a while until they start to get the hang of this driving thing.  Eventually, with practice, they start to develop muscle memory in their feet and hands and eyes so that the necessary motions of driving come naturally.

There are lots of activities where you can develop muscle memory.  Typing, things at work and motions in sports where you practice the same movement over and over so that your muscles just know what to do and they do it.

So speaking of muscle memory, what is the most powerful muscle in your body?  The muscle that can be a force for great good?  The muscle that has terrible power to destroy?  It only weighs 2 ½ ounces and yet can cause great trouble.  The human tongue.

You all know how deadly poisonous the tongue can be because you yourself have used that little muscle as a weapon to lash out at others with great fury and venom.  You know very well how to hurt other people with your words.

My mother used to tell me, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.”  We would love to believe that to be true, but, of course, we all know that is just something mothers tell us to try to get us to ignore other people’s hateful words.  Words hurt.  The tongue muscle is powerful and I am afraid that too many of us have developed the muscle memory to use the tongue for evil rather than good.  And this cannot be my brothers and sisters in Christ.

You were conceived and born a sinner and were blind, dead and an enemy of God.  You once belonged to the darkness of evil.  But that is not where God left you. God the Father sent His only Son Jesus to deal with the problem of evil; the evil in the world and the evil in you.  Jesus went up against all that evil and took it into Himself; onto Himself.  He dealt with political evil, religious evil, supernatural evil, the evil in you and me; Jesus took it all upon Himself.  He went into the depths of the evil and died and then rose again.  Jesus overcame evil.  Jesus paid for the sins of the world.  Jesus dealt with the problem of evil and gives you forgiveness and eternal life.  In Christ, you are a redeemed child God bought with the blood of God in flesh shed for you on the cross.  Jesus takes the evil and pays the price and declares you to be holy and pure.  He has marked you as His own in Holy Baptism.  You belong to Jesus.  You are a child of God; you are the light of the world.

You have Christ who is the light in the darkness.  The light spreads by the tongue.  The tongue can be used to speak to one another the Word of God; to tell others about Jesus; to speak words of love to others; to bless others; to lift others up.

But the muscle memory of your old, sinful self is powerful.  It is so easy to instead use your tongue to speak hate-filled words; often to the people you love the most.  I, myself, have a terrible temper and a vicious tongue.  My tongue has gotten me into great trouble since my childhood because it is so easy to let ugly, poisonous words spew forth.  The muscle memory of the tongue causes you to fight the same fight over and over with the same people.  The muscle memory of the tongue causes you to say evil things, hateful things, coarse things, nasty things.  The muscle memory causes you to use the tongue to curse others rather than build them up.  The muscle memory of the tongue causes you to use it to accuse others who have been forgiven by Jesus.  Because your tongue has a muscle memory of evil it does great evil and causes evil to spread in the world.  Your tongue brings added darkness to the world.

            You have Christ who is the light in the darkness.  The light spreads by the tongue.  The tongue can be used to speak to one another the Word of God; to tell others about Jesus; to speak words of love to others; to bless others; to lift others up.

James 3:5-11 (ESV) 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?[1]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, these things ought not to be so.

One little match can burn down an entire forest.  One little tongue can destroy a family, a church, a community.  You’ve seen it happen.  Families broken because of words spoken.  Marriages destroyed by words.   Parents and children who won’t talk to each other because of words.  Friendships wrecked.  Jobs lost.  Neighbors at odds.  All because of poisonous words spoken by the tongue.

As a Christian, you are the light of the world called to love your neighbor; you need to learn to tame the tongue.  And it isn’t easy.  Learning to tame the tongue will be more awkward and difficult than first learning to drive and worse, and it will take longer.  Because you already have muscle memory to let evil spill forth.  Confess your failures and receive forgiveness and keep practicing.  You will never be able to completely tame your tongue this side of the grave, but you can make progress.  With practice and more practice and more practice you can develop muscle memory in your tongue to speak well of others; even when they don’t deserve it.  During the awkward and difficult stage take it slow.  When you get ready to say something practice pausing and thinking and controlling the words that come out of your mouth.  Remember you are the light of the world shining forth the light of Christ.  Let your words reflect this.  Practice speaking calm, loving words that lift up instead of tear down.

And this is not to say you never discipline your children or never let someone know when they are doing wrong, but it does mean that you do it with cool, composed speech and not with an angry, vile, venomous rant.  Like mom used to say.  “Put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion.”  Speak well of others.  Don’t gossip.  Don’t try to lift yourself up by putting someone else down.

And don’t triangulate.  When I have a problem with someone my natural reaction is to tell someone else about it and complain about the person I have a problem with.  I have a problem with Jeremy so I go and tell Jed; I have made a triangle.  If I have a problem with Jeremy with whom should I talk to?  Jeremy.  If I am not willing to talk to Jeremy then I should say nothing.  This is so easy to understand, and so hard to do.  The evil one tries to use all sorts of petty squabbles, and not so petty squabbles, to tear us apart and bring more darkness into the world instead of light.

Instead of assuming the worst about others, put the best construction on their actions.  If someone is late to meet you or pick you up don’t get angry and assume the worst of them.  Assume the best.  Assume they are trying to get to you, but traffic is really bad.  If someone hasn’t returned your call, don’t assume they hate you; they likely just got busy and forgot; call or text them again.  If someone walks past without saying hello don’t assume they are rude, assume they are deep in thought about something important.

Live in peaceful harmony with everyone.  Even those you don’t like or you are told not to like.  We are living in a time when there are many in this nation who work hard to keep us starkly divided according to politics and race and religion.  It is so tempting to be able to categorize everyone and treat others poorly because they are not in your same group.  The bitterness and contempt that gets spewed forth on social media from Christians is not acceptable.  You are not going to agree with everyone, but you can treat everyone with love, and kindness, and respect.  You can disagree and discuss without getting angry and hateful.

As Jesus is being nailed to the cross He has every right to be bitter and angry and curse those who are hurting Him.  But what is it that he says as He is being crucified?  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Like the small rudder on the back of a ship can turn the large ship, so can that little muscle of a tongue do great things and terrible things.  Not one of us can stand on the high ground because we are so good at controlling our tongue.  All of us struggle to control that little muscle and keep it from evil.  So let us all practice and practice and practice using the tongue as an instrument of light instead of an instrument of darkness.  Change the muscle memory from evil to good.  Because you are not a child of the darkness anymore.  You are a child of the light; in Christ you are the light of the world.

Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Ephesians 2 or James 2

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SERMON AUDIO

Pentecost 16 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 9, 2018
Isaiah 35:4-7a, James 2:1-10, 14-18, Mark 7:24-37

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjudFull Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

A golfer tees off on a par 4 and hits a nice shot just off the fairway about 150 yards from the green.  He walks up to the ball and then he has a decision to make.  Which club should he use?  It could be anywhere from a 3 iron to a 7 iron, maybe even a wedge or a hybrid based on the golfer’s ability, wind conditions, how deep and thick is the rough.  For a golfer like me who plays every couple of years it probably doesn’t matter too much I can hit it 10 feet with almost any club, but for a good golfer, the proper club selection can make all the difference.

In many pursuits, the proper tool for the job makes a big difference.  Two screwdrivers may look very much alike, but a Philips head and a slot screw driver work best on the proper type of screws.  You need to know which tool is right for the job.  The same way with the Bible there are different tools for different jobs.

We have Ephesians 2 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.[1]

We also have James 2 (ESV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? …17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.[2]

Two different passages for two different purposes.

C.F.W. Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the first president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.  I have a picture of him on the wall of my study drawn by Joe Nagle, an inmate in prison.  In 1878, Walther gave a series of lectures to seminarians which have been preserved and recorded in the book, “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.”  It is broken down into 25 theses.  This is an excellent book for Lutherans to read and study.  Theses VIII is helpful for us this morning, “You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you preach the Law to those who are already in terror on account of their sins or the Gospel to those who are living securely in their sins.

Law and Gospel.  Two different situations.  Two different approaches.  James 2 is more law.  Ephesians 2 is more Gospel.

Suppose a man who regularly attends worship one day packs his bags and moves out of his house leaving behind his wife and children.  He has a new woman that he met at work and has been dating on the side and he is moving in with her because he says she understands him better and he’s happier with her.  The man’s pastor goes to visit him to warn him about his sin.  The man says, “Pastor, don’t worry about me.  I still have faith.  I still believe in Jesus.  Everything is fine.  You don’t need to question my spirituality.”

Which passage should the pastor share with this man?  Ephesians 2 or James 2?  He needs to hear James.

Or suppose a young woman comes into church to talk to the pastor and she is heartsick over things that she has done.  She hasn’t been to worship for a long time and she has gotten deeper and deeper into a lifestyle of drinking and casual intimacy.  At one point she got pregnant and her frightened boyfriend talked her into getting an abortion.  Now she is haunted by her past and is deeply troubled by what she has done.  Whenever she sees babies and small children she starts to cry.  She says to the pastor, “I’ve messed everything up and I can’t make it right.  I can’t do enough to make up for what I’ve done.  There is no way God can forgive me.  I am lost forever.”  Which verse does the pastor use for this young lady?  Ephesians 2 or James 2?  Ephesians, of course.

Ephesians 2 is for people who are trouble because of their sin and need assurance that salvation is not based on what they have done, but is based solely on what Christ has done for them.

James 2 is for people that are secure in their sin and think that as long as they say they have faith it doesn’t matter what they do.  Both verses are the Word of God, but are used for different purposes.  One comforts the troubled, and one troubles the comfortable.

You need to hear both James 2 and Ephesians 2 at various times of your life.  When you are feeling comfortable in your sin and you are loving yourself more than loving those around you, you need to hear James 2.  Likewise when you say you have faith, but your works are from the devil, hear James 2, James 2:19 (ESV)  19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder![3]

Simply believing God exists is not saving faith.  The devil believes God exists.  Saving faith believes that Jesus died for you on the cross and rose from the dead for you to pay for all your sins.  This kind of faith changes you; it makes you behave differently than those who have no faith.  As a Christian, Jesus’ love flows from God–through you–to the world.  God loves you in Christ; you love God and love your neighbor.  Saving faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and makes you a saint; righteous, holy, innocent.  Unfortunately, at the same time, until the day you die, you will still battle your natural sinful nature that stubbornly clings to you.  It is a strange paradox of your life as a Christian … you are, at the same time, a saint and a sinner.  It can be a frustrating and difficult paradox and the devil will try to use it against you.

The devil will try to convince you that since you believe in Jesus and in His forgiveness then you are free to sin.  This makes great sense.  You think, “I like to sin.  Jesus likes to forgive sins.  What a great deal!”  You can fall into the trap of confessing Jesus with your lips, but then living life like an unbeliever.  There is an extreme example of this near the end of the first Godfather movie.  Michael Corleone is godfather to his sister Connie’s child and they are at church for the child’s baptism.  Michael is at the baptismal font renouncing the devil and all his works and all his ways at the same time his men are engaged in a massacre of the family’s enemies at Michael’s order.  Michael says he has faith in God and is against the devil, but he is embracing the devil’s ways of murder and violence.  Michael Corleone needs to hear James 2.

Another strategy of the devil is to convince you that since you still are by nature sinful that faith in Jesus is of no use because your sin is too great.  The devil whispers to you, “If you really had faith in Jesus you wouldn’t still be having those awful, twisted thoughts and desires.  You wouldn’t give in to temptation, if you were really a Christian.  If you were really a Christian you would do more to please God.”  At these times you need to hear some Ephesians 2.

A different twist on this is when people use guilt as a motivator in order to get you do whatever they want you to do.  Pastors and church leaders can fall into using this because it works.  Guilt is a very powerful tool to manipulate, “If you really had faith you would give more money; volunteer for more things; read the Bible more, come to worship more, do more of what I want you to do.”  Here you need Ephesians 2

The devil can also use this frustrating paradox of saint and sinner against you by turning your works into the source of your salvation.  This can be a great danger for pastors and others in church work.  The devil will tell you, “You do enough good things.  You’ve dedicated your life to the church.  You may not be perfect, but you are so much better than those other people.”  The devil will try to get you to rely on your own righteousness instead of knowing you need Jesus; instead of knowing we all come before God equally needy.  Here Ephesians 2 and James 2 are both useful.

The whole reading today from James 2 reminds us that we are all the same before God; there is no place for favoritism.  When we gather together for worship there are not the good seats and the cheap seats because every one of us comes before God with the exact same need and status.  We are all sinners in need of forgiveness.  We all need the same thing and Jesus gives you each the same thing.  Rich or poor, black, brown, white, it doesn’t matter; Jesus’ gifts are the same.  And, as forgiven sinners washed in the waters of baptism you are all called to the same thing; love God and love your neighbor.  Love and care for others; not just in words, but in deeds.  Love and serve and forgive others as Christ loves, serves and forgives you.  It is the fruit of salvation.

There are different tools for different jobs.  There is Ephesians 2 and there is James 2.  You live in the difficult tension of being saint and sinner.  As a baptized child of God bought with the blood of Jesus you need them both.  Live, love, serve and forgive in the tension of this paradox each day of your life knowing who you are in Christ.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

You are the devil’s target. Stand firm.

nullPentecost 15, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
September 2, 2018
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9, Ephesians 6:10-20, Mark 7:14-23

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

When I was a teenager I used to like to watch scary movies about demons and evil spirits.  I remember that after watching a particularly frightening movie I was pretty on edge.  Every little sound in the house was that evil one from the movie coming to get me.  Somehow it seemed fun to be scared of evil.

There are many people today who like to play with evil, dabble in evil; explore evil, at Halloween it seems that folks try to get more and more gory and disturbing with a great emphasis on devils and witches and evil.

There are those who experiment with evil and find ways to try to gain power and secret insights through the dark side.  People use Ouija Boards and Tarot Cards and horoscopes to get answers to their questions.  There is a growing industry of ghost tours as people seek out contact with spirits for fun.

There are times folks want to explore the dark side and play with evil spirits, and there are other times folks want to pretend that all this talk about devils and demons is just so much medieval superstition.  So many people today just know that they are intelligent, modern folks and they way too smart for any talk of supernatural forces of evil.  They know that there is no such thing as a devil or demons.

So, which is it?  Is the devil real?  Are there demons around?  If so, what do they do?  What does the Bible say?

Revelation 12:7-9, 12, 17 (ESV) 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him... 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. … [1]

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[2]

Matthew 13:18-19 (ESV)  18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.[3]

You are a target for your enemy, the devil.  When you were baptized and confirmed there was a minor exorcism when you renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways.  You have renounced the devil and now he is going after you as one who keeps the commandments of God and holds to the testimony of Jesus.  That ancient serpent, the devil; Satan himself, is coming after you.  He wants to devour you like a hungry lion.  He wants to snatch the word of God out of your heart so your faith withers and dies.

You are in battle against the devil.  The devil is coming after you to attack you, and the devil is clever.  The devil tries to distract you by getting you to believe that you are in battle against other people and that they are your greatest enemy.  So many are kept constantly distracted by interpersonal fighting in their lives which is intensified even more by text messaging and social media.

            The devil has targeted you for attack but you have everything you need.  You are fully equipped to stand your ground against the devil and his demons because you have been baptized into Christ.  You have the full armor of God to protect you so you can withstand the evil day.  You have truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.  You have what you need to resist the devil.

These visible foes are, however, not the true enemy.  What you can see is not the real battle.  These conflicts are minor squabbles that can be resolved, but the devil uses them to distract you and hide the true enemy and allow him to become even more dangerous.  If there is a lion prowling around are you going to get distracted by squabbling with your neighbor so you forget the lion is there?  Remain on guard against the assaults of the evil one, and stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)  12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.[4]

The devil has targeted you for attack but you have everything you need.  You are fully equipped to stand your ground against the devil and his demons because you have been baptized into Christ.  You have the full armor of God to protect you so you can withstand the evil day.  You have truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.  You have what you need to resist the devil.

James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[5]

Resist the devil.  Stand firm against the devil’s schemes.  The devil is very clever and knows your weak spots.  The devil will use deceit, manipulation, accusations, and flattery.  The devil will use half-truths to deceive.  “Did God really say?”  The devil’s first lie is still one of his most effective.  Did God really say that your favorite sin is really a sin?  Did God really say you should gather for worship?  Did God really say that you are to love and forgive others?  Did God really say that He forgives you all your sins?  Did God really say?

The devil is clever.  The devil knows when you are tired and frustrated and weak.  The devil knows how to get you to start with just one little sin and then bring you down the road to bigger and bigger sins.  The devil knows how to get you to take that first step with his lie on your lips, “I won’t go any further.  I will stop this time.”  The devil knows how to get you to listen to him when he says, “It’s no big deal.  It’s just a little thing,” and then listen to him again when he tells you, “God cannot forgive that sin you have committed.”

The devil is clever and the devil knows that you protected.  The devil knows you are wrapped in the baptismal protection of the armor of God and you wield the sword of the spirit.  So the devil works to get you to put down the sword of the spirit and take off the armor of God.  The devil works hard and smart to separate you from the promises of God.  He does it by trying to get you to avoid coming to church; avoid being strengthened.  He will give you no end of excuses as to why you cannot make it on Sunday morning.  It’s my only day to sleep late.  I drank too much on Saturday.  Church is boring.  I don’t like that pastor.  The kids are too fussy.  The devil will get you to fill your life with so many other things that he will keep you from gathering with fellow believers and confessing your sins and your faith and hearing the words of forgiveness and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.  The devil will do what he can to get you to stop reading the word of God; stop praying, stop any connection with God so you can forget about God’s promises to you.  The devil will get you to give up on God’s will and go with the flow of the world where it is so backwards and uncool to be wearing the armor of God and wielding the sword of the spirit.  The devil will convince you to adopt the ways of the world so you lay down the sword of the spirit and take off the armor of God.  Once you give up your baptismal protection you are vulnerable and defenseless, and then the devil is free to attack you and devour you and take you with him to Hell.

So stay on guard.  You are a baptized child of God who has the armor of God and wields the sword of the spirit.  Stand firm.  Know who you are in Christ.  Stand firm.  In Christ you are safe.  Wearing the armor of God you can stand your ground.  We hear this in the words of Martin Luther’s famous hymn,

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

One little word can fell him.  What is the one little word?  What is that one word so powerful that it can stop the devil in his tracks?  One word that exposes the devil for what he is.  One word…“Liar.”  Call the devil out for what he is because he is deceitful and manipulative and flattering and accusing.  Call out the Father of Lies for what he is.  “Liar!”  When the devil tells you a sin is no big deal… “Liar!”  When the devil tells you your sins are too much to forgive… “Liar!”  When the devil tells you that you are good enough on your own… “Liar!”

Stand firm.  Stand together.  Stand forever.  You are clothed in the baptismal protection of the armor of God.  You have truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God.  You wield the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.  You know the truth about Jesus; that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  You know Jesus died on the cross for you and rose from the dead for you.  You know the truth, and you are safe from the devil.  Stand firm.  Stay on guard.

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer the last petition is “deliver us from evil.”  You can also pray it, “deliver us from the evil one.”  Don’t lose sight of the true enemy.  Don’t lay down your sword and armor.  Stay on guard.  Stand firm.  You are protected in Christ.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Marriage: A profound mystery.

nullPentecost 14 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Isaiah 29:11-19, Ephesians 5:22-33, Mark 7:1-13
August 26, 2018

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Do you ever get that rebellious feeling when everyone is going the wrong direction and they are telling you that you have to do it too?  Don’t you just want to stand up for yourself and go against the flow?  When the crowd is all telling you that you need to do this and act like this and believe this, it just makes you want to dig in your heels and rebel against what everyone else is doing.

One of the greatest rebellions you can have today against what everyone else is doing is to practice Christian marriage.  Christian marriage is rebellion against the culture because Christian marriage holds intimacy to be valuable and important.  Christian marriage recognizes that man and woman are different.  Christian marriage celebrates the differences and rejoices that man and woman are made for each other.  Christian marriage celebrates that man and woman are uniquely designed for one another to complete each other and complement each other.  In a selfie world, Christian marriage is not about me, but about we.

God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him and then He formed Eve from a piece of Adam’s side.  Adam and Eve were once one, and then they became two.  In their union they again become one.  What was separated into male and female is reunited in the marriage union.  Ephesians 5:31 (ESV) 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[1]

Two become one.  One plus one equals one.  This is a profound mystery.  And not only is the marriage union a profound mystery in itself, this uniting of a man and a woman is a picture of the joining together of Christ and the Church.  You, as a baptized child of God, are a part of the body of Christ, the Church.  As the Church, you are one in Christ; one with Christ.  The Church is the Bride of Christ.  Christ is the bridegroom.  We, as the Church, are the Bride of Christ waiting for the great marriage feast of the Lamb in the heavenly city of New Jerusalem.

As a part of the Church, the bride of Christ, you are united with Christ right now and nowhere is that more evident than in our gathering together on Sunday morning to hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness, sing praises and thanksgiving, and receive the flesh and blood of Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  Gathered here together each week you see how Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)  25 …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[2]

You gather here each week to have Christ once again sanctify you, cleanse you, wash you, so you can be presented in splendor without spot or wrinkle; holy and without blemish.  Jesus does this through His sacrificial love shown when He gave Himself for you on the cross at Calvary.  Jesus suffered and died for you.  Jesus put your needs before His comfort.  Jesus puts saving you in front of saving Himself.  Jesus’ mission is to protect you and save you because you are His beloved creation.  This is how much Jesus loves you.

This is the model for how a husband should love his wife.  A husband should love with sacrificial love, putting his wife’s needs before his own comfort and desires, always seeking to cherish his wife with love and care and protection.  A husband is ready to give his life to save her life.  A husband is charged to love his wife like Christ loves the Church.  Now, it is impossible to perfectly love like Jesus, but that is the calling; the goal, that is what a husband strives to do.  The fact that you will not achieve it perfectly should never be used as an excuse to not continue to try.

I had a friend on Facebook who posted a picture of a wedding where the bride was instructed to wash the groom’s feet to show her submission to her husband.  The young lady who posted this asked what people thought about this practice, which I had not heard of before.  I responded to her that they had the practice backwards.  The man is supposed to love his wife like Christ loved the Church.  The church did not wash Jesus’ feet; Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

A man’s role as husband is one of loving and cherishing and caring and protecting.  Women want this.  A husbands needs to find his role as the loving, cherishing, caring, protector in the marriage and then live it out.

A woman’s role in marriage is one of voluntary submission into her husband’s care, and finding and fulfilling her place in the marriage; her niche.  She finds what she is given to do and does it.  Not out of compulsion, but out of loving devotion to her husband.  A woman’s role is to respect, appreciate and admire her husband.  Men want this.

We see here in Ephesians how there is a difference between men and women. Men and women are made for each other.  It shows a beautiful union of two very different yet complementary creatures.  In premarital preparation I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t want a man who is strong and supportive and will be there for her when things are rough in order to comfort and reassure and let her know, “We are going to get through this.”

            Marriage is a profound mystery; it is a lifelong joining together of a man and a woman.  Marriage is not just two people who love each other who agree to stay together as long as they feel like it.  Marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a permanent bond, to, God-willing, create new life.  Love in a marriage is not a feeling because feelings will change; feelings will come and go.  Marital love is a verb; it is a choice; it is a promise; it is a commitment.  It is not a feeling, it is an action.

Now, these verses from Ephesians 5 have, at times, been misconstrued to somehow make the husband the boss and his wife the servant.  That is incorrect.  The husband is the head with Christ as His model for a headship of love, care and protection.  The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as Christ does the Church.  There is nothing here about power and authority.

Marriage is a profound mystery; it is a lifelong joining together of a man and a woman.  Marriage is not just two people who love each other who agree to stay together as long as they feel like it.  Marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a permanent bond, to, God-willing, create new life.  Love in a marriage is not a feeling because feelings will change; feelings will come and go.  Marital love is a verb; it is a choice; it is a promise; it is a commitment.  It is not a feeling, it is an action.

You prepare for and support Christian marriage from the time you are a child and you learn how to treat other people with love and respect and learn to control your desire for intimacy in a God-pleasing way.  Because when you abuse the gift of intimacy and treat it as a relatively meaningless act that can be shared with anyone as long as they consent, you do great damage to marriage.  Intimacy outside of marriage takes this profoundly mysterious union of a man and a woman and profanes it; turns it into something less; sometimes just a hook up.  The intimate union of a man and a woman is part of marriage; it consummates the union; it is a marriage promise made with your body.  When someone has multiple intimate partners it damages their future marriage because their established pattern is to be intimate with many people instead of entering into the marriage covenant with one.

The union of a man and a woman in marriage is a profound mystery.  For two sinful humans to unite themselves in this union demonstrates a great trust in God and the power of forgiveness.  There is a lot of forgiveness needed in marriage.  Forgiveness from God and forgiveness from each other.  Some of the most powerful words in marriage are, “Honey, I’m sorry.” And “I forgive you.”

Learn to forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you.  Jesus completely forgives you and no longer holds your sin against you.  In marriage, practice complete Biblical forgiveness.  Forgive your husband’s sins and no longer hold them against him.  Forgive your wife’s sins and don’t hold on to them.  No more bringing up old troubles when discussing current issues.  No more holding grudges for old sins.  No more keeping score of who has done what.

The lifelong union of a man and woman is a profound mystery.  It is a lifelong journey of commitment, love and respect.  It is not easy.  It is better to not get married than to marry someone who is not committed to living out Christian marriage in union with you.  Christian marriage is not easy, but a good Christian marriage can be one of the most fulfilling, powerful things in your life when modeled after the union of Christ and the Church.  It is indeed a profound mystery; the joining together of two very different creatures into a union of love and respect designed by God.  So be a rebel against society.  Practice Christian marriage with love and respect.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001