What is the worst thing that you have done?

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 15, 2018
Acts 3:11-21, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36-49

Sermons online:  
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com  
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Occasionally, at Immanuel Lutheran School on Fridays when I teach 7th and 8th grade religion, we will have open forum Friday where the students are invited to write down questions and I try to answer them.  Some of the questions are pretty deep, “What happens to children who die without baptism.”, some are lighter, “What is your real name?  What is your favorite food?”  This past Friday one of the kids asked me, “What is the worst thing you did as a kid?”

Now that is a pretty convicting question.  Pondering this question brings waves of guilt and shame in remembering past sins.  I have lots to choose from.  What would I be willing to share? Is there anything I would be willing to share?  What is the worst thing I have done as an adult?  Again, so many things to choose from, would I dare to speak any out loud in public?

What we said at the beginning of the service is certainly true.  It is certainly true for me.  I am by nature sinful and unclean.  I am a poor sinner in need of mercy.  I am needy.  When we confess being a poor, miserable sinners it doesn’t refer to our state of mind; that we are unhappy or something.  It refers to our neediness, our being spiritually destitute.  It means that as a sinner I have a great need…an overwhelming need… for forgiveness.

Each one of you is by nature, sinful and unclean.  Each one of you is a poor, miserable sinner in need of forgiveness.  Each one of you has sins in your past and in your present that you do not want to speak out loud.  Each of you is burdened by guilt and shame because of who you are and what you have done.  This is the hard, ugly truth about sin.  But Jesus does not leave you in the tomb of your sin.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  And this changes everything.  God loves you.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…”  God the Father loves you.  See what kind of love the Father has given you.  This is an extraordinary love.  This is an incredible love.  Who could love someone like me with all the dark perversion of my sinfulness and my struggle?  Who could love someone like you; a natural born sinner?  The great Good News is that, indeed, the Father loves you and sent His Son to take your place; to pay for your sin; to suffer in your stead.  Jesus died for you on the cross and Jesus rose from the dead for you.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  This changes everything.

Christ risen from the dead means you too will rise from the dead.  Christ risen from the dead proves that Jesus truly is God in flesh.  Christ risen from the dead proves that forgiveness of sins in Jesus is the truth.  Christ risen from the dead proves Christianity is truth.

Jesus risen from the dead means you are not left mired down in the swamp of your sin.  No longer are you a sinner deserving punishment now and forever.  No longer are you blind, dead and an enemy of God.  No longer are you a lost and condemned person.  No longer.  You are now a child of God because Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Some folks like to think that all religions are the same, but Christianity is different.  What is different about Christianity?  Christianity is based on evidence.  Christianity is based on the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.  Christianity can be disproven.  If someone finds Jesus’ body Christianity is destroyed.  Christianity needs a resurrected Jesus.  If Christ is not raised from the dead then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  If Christ is not raised from the dead then we are all just wasting our time.

But Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  This changes everything.

Jesus rising from the dead doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Normally when people die they stay dead.  But Jesus is not a normal person.  Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  We have the eye witness accounts recorded in the Bible.  We have the record of the eyewitnesses continuing to preach the Good News of a resurrected Jesus.  The eyewitnesses continue to preach the Good news of the resurrected Jesus even though it costs 10 out of 11 of them their lives.

Jesus risen from the dead means you are not left mired down in the swamp of your sin.  No longer are you a sinner deserving punishment now and forever.  No longer are you blind, dead and an enemy of God.  No longer are you a lost and condemned person.  No longer.  You are now a child of God because Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

You are a child of God.  You are God’s child right now.  And the best is yet to come.  When Jesus returns on the last day you will be raised up to be like Him.

At your baptism you are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness.  At your baptism you are clothed in Christ.  You wear Christ.  We saw two more put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness this morning as two of our students, Aybri and Bella, come through the waters of Holy Baptism.  You are a child of God.  You have been declared to be righteous, innocent and blessed.  You are a saint of God.  Saint ________.  Saint ________.  Saint ________.  Christ’s death is your death.  Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection.  You belong to Christ.  You put on Christ.  27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:27)

You are a baptized child of God.  You are a saint of God.  You wear Christ.  But wearing Christ can be uncomfortable in this world.  The reason the world does not know you is that it did not know Jesus.  Jesus did not fit into this world; they wanted to kill Him.  As a child of God you do not fit in the world.  People will look at you as if you are some kind of freak.  People will think you are some backwards, foul, relic from the past because you wear Christ.

You wear Christ and move through life in this world as the world is continually pushing you and pulling you and desperately trying to get you to conform to the ways of the world.  The world wants you to give in to your sinful desires.  The world wants you to let your sin rule your life; let sin call the shots.  The world wants you to take off the robe of Christ’s righteousness so you can fit in and live under the rule of sin and the devil.

It is easy to give in to sin.  It is natural to give in to sin.  Giving in to sin and living in sin allows you to go with the flow of the world.  The world tells you to be yourself, no matter what that is.  But you are not yourself.  You do not belong to yourself.  You are a child of God.  You have put on Christ.  You should not be yourself; you should not be your natural, rebellious, sinner self.  You should be your redeemed, holy, child of God, saint self; the saint self that lives in Christ.

As a redeemed child of God washed clean in the blood of Jesus you no longer belong to the darkness and so you are called to struggle against sin and temptation.  You are called to fight against the sin that creeps into your life and wants to take up residence.  You are called to push back against sinful desires and sinful situations because you no longer practice sin.  You are called to live a life of repentance.  You are a child of God.  You live in the refreshing joy of Easter.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!  This changes everything.

This is why you need Jesus.  You need to gather together every week to be refreshed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  Each Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and receive the gifts of God.  You need the refreshment of hearing “I forgive you all your sins.”  You need the renewal of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  You need Jesus and Jesus is here for you as we gather together each week to receive His gifts and to love and support one another.

What is the worst thing that you have done in your past?  It doesn’t matter.  It is no longer there.  It is covered by the blood of Jesus.  It is washed away.  You are a child of God who lives in the refreshing stream of the water life.  You live in the ongoing truth of Easter.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Amen.

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Welcome Home!

mountain_17204pEaster 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
April 1, 2018
Isaiah 25:6-9, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16:1-8

 

Sermons online:  
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com  
itunes:                          bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:     bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

So, what are you looking for? Why have you come here today?  What has gotten you up on this Sunday morning and brought you to this place?  What are you looking for?  Some of you are here every Sunday, some not so often.  But, why are you really here? What are you really looking for?  Every one of you is on a journey through life and the end of the journey can be frightening.  Where is your home?  What lies at the end of the journey?

Some of you are here because you are home for the holiday and your family always goes to church together on Easter. Some of you are here because you are unable to be home, and church on Easter Sunday reminds you of your home and family.  For many of you, church and the people here are your home and family. There is something about this day and this place that reminds you of home.

Today you are here, in the right place, looking for home, but sadly, I’m afraid you spend most of your days looking for home somewhere else.  You spend most of your days looking for home in the things of this world.  You look for home in the things around you; in fleeting pleasures and momentary happiness.  Too often you look for home in things of the world as if they are what truly matter.  Far too often you look to this world as if it truly is your home.

This may seem like it’s not such a big deal, but when you look for home in the things of this world you are like the women in our Easter text for today from the Gospel of St. Mark. The first place you “go” to seek Jesus is a tomb. You look for Jesus among the dead. You focus upon the fleeting stuff of this world.  You are enchanted by things you will soon throw away.  You are excited by the perishable.  You seek comfort and fulfillment in this mortal, dying world. You seek Jesus among the dead!  You look for proof of Jesus in the material things of life and you treat the grave as if it were your home.  You are taught to believe that life is a race against the grave.  We hear this reflected in the way we talk about life.  We say things like, life is short eat dessert first, carpe diem (seize the day), yolo (you only live once), it’s on my bucket list, you only go around once so grab all the gusto you can grab.  All of this talk makes it seem as if this life is all that there is, that, indeed, life is short and then you die.

Why do the women go to the tomb to see Jesus?  Now we can talk about how the women were doing their duty by going out to anoint Jesus’ body.  We can speak of the women’s bravery because they are out and about while the disciples hide in fear behind locked doors. We can talk about their devotion to the Son of God. But none of that changes the fact that they believed Jesus to be dead. Jesus told them over and over that He would rise from the dead and yet they still went to the tomb to see Jesus because, everyone knows, the tomb is home for dead people and Jesus died just like everyone else.

Why did they seek Jesus among the dead? Because, in this world, death is your home.  In this world you are on a one way journey to the grave.  You have been exiled to death because of sin.  Death is the reality of this life.  What are the two things you can’t avoid?  Taxes and death.  Now, we try to ignore death.  We try to fight it, we deny it, we do all we can to put it off; but the reality of our sin is death. Death is our land of exile; the grave is our wilderness home. You can eat healthily, work out, see the best doctors, eliminate stress, and be in touch with your inner self; yet you will still die.

The devastation of death is brought about by sin in the world and sin in your very being. The grave becomes your exile home.  In the Garden of Eden, man willingly brought sin into this world; but who knew that sin would bring its partner—death.  The devil lied to Adam and Eve when he said, “You will not surely die.”  The wages of sin is death.  And not the sanitized American version of death with all our gentle euphemisms, passed away, slipped away, didn’t make it.  The wages of sin is death.  The brutal, agonizing, eternal fire, weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth kind of death that is the result of being separated from God. Death that is everlasting condemnation; death that is suffering beyond comparison; death that is the great enemy that no man can overcome. Our sin has sent us to this land of exile, this land of death. We are in an exile that is a death both physical and spiritual; we are in exile with no ability to escape and no hope of return.  Is it any wonder that you live as if the tomb is your home?

For this reason, God sent His Son into this world. Jesus came to rescue you from your land of wandering, from your deadly exile, from the reality of death itself. Jesus came to save you from the grave.  This is the exile from which Christ has freed you and brought you out. Jesus came to accomplish what you had no hope of accomplishing. By the cross, He has redeemed you, restored you, and renewed you. Jesus overcame both sin and death. Jesus hung on the cross to bear your sin—suffering, bleeding holy blood, and dying as the sacrifice for all sin. Jesus conquered Satan as He provided the sacrifice required and cleansed you from all guilt and shame. For this, God sent His Son; for this, Jesus faced death in your place and finished the work God promised He would do; and for this, Jesus was laid in the tomb as a lifeless body—but a lifeless body with a promise!

The tomb is empty! The tomb is not Christ’s home. The grave only holds Him for three short days.  The grave—the pit—is not and will not be His dwelling place.  Satan’s wilderness exile land of sin and death cannot contain Jesus.  The grave cannot contain Jesus.  He is not there. Christ is risen!

The women who went to the tomb that first Easter morning were not focused on the promise. They were focused on the corpse. They went to see Jesus among the dead. They were living as if the grave was their home—the end of their journey. But the angel told them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.”

Why do you seek the living among the dead? Why do you seek Jesus in a tomb? He is not here. He is risen!  Christ is risen!

The tomb is empty! The tomb is not Christ’s home. The grave only holds Him for three short days.  The grave—the pit—is not and will not be His dwelling place.  Satan’s wilderness exile land of sin and death cannot contain Jesus.  The grave cannot contain Jesus.  He is not there. Christ is risen!

Do you realize what this means? If the tomb is not Christ’s home, then the tomb is not your home either! You will not remain in the grave.  You will rise from the dead.  Christ is victorious over sin, death, and the devil, and He shares His victory with you. Christ pays the price and overcomes the Ancient Foe, and you are rescued from the wilderness; you are restored to your God; you are returned from the land of your exile. Welcome home!  Welcome home to eternal life with God in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christ is risen!  The tomb is empty. The grave is no longer your focus because it is no longer your home. You no longer live life fatalistically. You no longer wander through this world with the attitude that you just plug along until you die. You no longer live as one exiled in a land of suffering and death. The tomb is empty! THE TOMB IS EMPTY! Christ is risen!  You do not look for Jesus among the dead.  You do not live your life as one who has no hope. The tomb is empty! Christ is Risen!  He is risen, and you also will rise!

This world is confusing. This world is uncomfortable and difficult. This world is heavy and overwhelming. This world still seeks your attention and your citizenship. But this world is NOT your home. Christ has risen! The tomb is empty, and you live life as a child of God walking through this strange land. You are a living child of God on a journey through this world. You focus not to the right or to the left; you are not distracted by the glamour, you are not sidetracked by the shiny things of life.  You are not overcome by the pain and the darkness. You walk with your eyes focused, not on the tomb, but on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:1–3), the One who has returned you to a right relationship with your Father in heaven. You walk with eyes focused not on the land of death, but on the open gates of everlasting life.

Welcome home!  Welcome home to the Kingdom of Heaven!  What beautiful words I am privileged to speak to you this day. Welcome home! The tomb of Christ is empty—He is not here; He is risen. And you, too, shall rise! Welcome home! Christ is risen!  Amen.

Who needs freedom?

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Cross atop Mt. Nebo in Jordan

Lent 4 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 11, 2018
Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

Sermons online:  
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com  
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Ezra’s stands knee deep in mud under the hot, Egyptian sun.  He is scooping up buckets of mud from a shallow pit to pass them up to other slaves who mix it with straw to make bricks.  Ezra works from before sunrise until after sunset.  There is not enough food and it is back-breaking work to continually hoist heavy buckets of mud above his head to those making the bricks.  Ezra is hot, tired, hungry, and miserable.  He is covered in mud including mud that has dripped into his eyes but he doesn’t have a clean hand to wipe them.  If Ezra slows down at all or if the overseer is just in a bad mood Ezra gets whipped with a long, thin leather strap cracking on his back drawing blood to mix with the mud.  It is a no good, awful, terrible day for Ezra just like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.  Seven days a week of slaving in the hot sun covered with mud mixed with blood, sweat and tears.  Life as a slave is a hard, brutal life.  You know exactly what to expect every day.

The Lord God hears the cries of His people in slavery in Egypt and sends Moses to rescue them.  Moses brings the people through the water of the Red Sea into the wilderness; saving them from a life of slavery.  The people are free.  No more mud.  No more bricks.  No more whips.  No more slaving under the hot sun.  The people are free.

The children of Israel are free.  They have passed through the waters on dry ground and then the waters destroyed the Egyptian army.  The people are free, but then the people get bored in their freedom.  Freedom isn’t enough.  Manna from heaven isn’t enough.  There are difficulties in the wilderness.  The people complain.  Numbers 21:5 (ESV) And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”[1]

God rescued the children of Israel and they reject His rescue.  They prefer the certainty of slavery to the Egyptians to the uncertainty of freedom trusting in God.  The people are bored in their freedom and God relieves their boredom by sending in fiery serpents.

Imagine you’re sitting at home on the couch just bored; nothing to do, flipping mindlessly through the TV channels.  How quickly would that boredom turn to terror if you saw a six foot snake slither out from under the sofa and across the living room floor?  And then another one, and another.  What would the sight of snakes in your house do to your pulse and breathing and blood pressure?

The Israelites have fiery serpents all among them and when someone gets bit the bite is hot and painful and brings certain death.

The people panic and cry out to Moses, Numbers 21:7 (ESV) … “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” …

So Moses prays and God answers his prayer, but God does not take away the serpents.  Instead God has Moses make a serpent out of bronze and put it on a pole and if a serpent bites anyone, he can look at the bronze serpent and live.  The people were cursed by the serpents and now that curse hangs on a pole as a sign and promise from God.

You were snake bit.  You come from a snake bit line of people infected with the fiery, poisonous venom from the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This venom of original sin, coursing through your body brings suffering, and certain, eternal death.  You were snake bit, but God rescued you as He did for little Faith this morning.  God brought you through the waters of Holy Baptism drowning the Old Adam in you.  God brought you through the saving waters of baptism into the wilderness of this life and He feeds you with His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  He gives you a sign with a promise; the Son of Man lifted up on the cross.  Look to Jesus on the cross and live.  Galatians 3:13 (ESV) 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—[2]  Jesus becomes a curse for you and is hung on a pole as a sign and promise of God.

You have been set free from slavery to sin; slavery to death, slavery to the devil.  You have been given the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are free from the curse of the law.  You are free to live life in love and service to others without fear of the devil and Hell.  You live in freedom.

You live in freedom, but that freedom is lived out in the wilderness of this life on your journey to the Promised Land, and life in the wilderness can be difficult.  Life in the wilderness can be full of hardship and heartache.  There is a great temptation to grow bored with freedom.  As crazy as it is for the Israelites to long for their time as slaves, you can find yourself longing for your time in bondage to sin.

You can get bored with the freedom of the Gospel.  “It’s just baptism.  It’s just Holy Communion.  It’s just God’s word of forgiveness.  It’s just the same thing over and over again.”  You can get to where you want to demand a sign; a miracle, you want to demand something more.  It can get to where the uncertainty of freedom in Christ just isn’t enough and you want to go back to the certainty of slavery to sin.

You have been set free from slavery to sin; slavery to death, slavery to the devil.  You have been given the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are free from the curse of the law.  You are free to live life in love and service to others without fear of the devil and Hell.  You live in freedom.

Living in the light of Christ in love and service to others can get boring and you just want to go back to the darkness of sin where people love the darkness because it covers their evil deeds.  Coming from a snake bit people you are drawn to the wickedness of the darkness; you are by nature a child of darkness.  But you are no longer of the darkness.  You are a child of light.

You are a child of the light, but there is a danger that the children of light can drift back into the darkness.  They can separate themselves from the Word of God.  No longer do they read God’s Word or hear God’s Word preached.  They separate themselves from the Words of Jesus’ absolution; His forgiveness.  They separate themselves from life giving food and drink of Holy Communion, they separate themselves from the Body of Christ, the Church, and they slowly drift back into darkness and slavery to sin and death.  There is no promise of once saved, always saved.  You can lose faith.  The devil you renounced at your baptism wants to take control of you again.  He wants to bite you with his fiery venom and take you with him to Hell.

So beware!  Wake up!  Stay awake!  Look to the sign of God’s promise!  Look to Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross for you.  Look to Jesus and live.  You are baptized.  You are free in Christ.

You have been rescued from the darkness.  Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,[3]  John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.[4]

You have been brought out of slavery to sin and into the freedom of Christ.  Do not return to the hard brutality of slavery to sin.  You have been brought from the darkness into the light.  You have been brought from death to life.  You are baptized into Christ.  You are on your way to the Promised Land of eternal life with Jesus.  Life in this wilderness world is not easy, but the Lord is with you; He feeds you and guides you and sustains you.  Keep your eyes on 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

 

Christians are fools

2018-02-26 15.48.35Lent 3 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 4, 2018
Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, John 2:13-22

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

On Monday afternoon I had the privilege to go to the hospital to visit Shari and Lukas Bickel and their new baby, Faith.  It is always nice to be able to make a visit to the third floor at Fort Hamilton to see a newborn.  As I held little Faith in my arms I got to marvel once again at the miracle of life.  One cell from mom and one cell from Dad joined together and from that one cell grew this 7 pound 5 ounce baby girl; and that is just the beginning.  This is miraculous.  From one cell grows this incredibly complex little baby with her eyes and ears and mouth and skin and all her different body systems.  The utter volume and complexity of the information contained in that first cell is beyond our comprehension.  The wisdom of God is incredible.  1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV) 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1]

Now, the wisdom of the world says that the utter volume and complexity of the information contained in that first single cell of human life is just a cosmic accident.  It is just the accidental byproduct of an endless series of random mutations from life formed spontaneously 3.8 billion years ago.  They say God had nothing to do with it because there is no God.  Among the cultural elites it is considered the height of idiocy to believe that God created the world.

The wise people in the world look with scornful contempt on anyone who thinks they were created by a loving God.  Instead they believe we are the product of a cosmic, accident of star dust.  The “smart folks” firmly believe that the wisdom of the world trumps the wisdom of God.

We live near an excellent university full of people with great wisdom, but that wisdom changes.  In many areas of study what is being taught today is very different than what was being taught 20, 40, 60 years ago.  The wisdom of the university changes.  The wisdom of the world evolves over time.  The wisdom of the world adjusts to change with society.  Sometimes it is a kind of amusing to watch universities trying to keep up with their own pace of change and tripping all over themselves in the effort to be the most current and most relevant and most so-called “woke” university.

The wisdom of God is unchangeable.  God is not adjusting to the latest thing and that is not very exciting.  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  God’s wisdom is unchangeable.

It doesn’t make sense… Jesus on the cross.  That isn’t the way that I would do it, and yet in God’s wisdom we are left with nothing except Jesus on the cross for our sins.

Unchangeable wisdom?  That is pretty archaic.  That’s boring.  That kind of stagnation isn’t going to be very attractive to the hip and cool folks.  Unchangeable wisdom could put you on the wrong side of history.  And if it does, so be it.  Because God’s wisdom is truth.  God’s wisdom does not change.  God’s wisdom does not evolve with society.  The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of man.  The wisdom of God is beyond our understanding.  And not understanding God can trouble us.

Why did God allow evil to exist?

Why did God allow Adam and Eve to be tempted?

Why would God use animal sacrifice to atone for sin?

Why would God demand the sacrifice of His Son Jesus to pay for the sins of the world?

It doesn’t make sense… Jesus on the cross.  That isn’t the way that I would do it, and yet in God’s wisdom we are left with nothing except Jesus on the cross for our sins.

We desperately want something different; something more beautiful; something more intellectual; more philosophical; more understandable.  We want something we can figure out as we ponder it.  We want some kind of spiritual puzzle that we can be a part of and we can solve.  But God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[2]

We don’t understand God and we are tempted to say, I can’t believe in a God who would ….fill in the blank…do something or allow something that I don’t like.  We can get so full of the world’s knowledge that we reject the simple truths of God.

We want to be in control, but we are left not being in charge.  We are left without complete understanding.  We are left only with Christ crucified… and that is enough.  God’s truth is enough.

God gives us the Ten Commandments.  These are simple, but powerful truths.  The Ten Commandments teach us how we should live.  The Commandments give us God’s law for our lives and they are our guide for living.  But in honesty, we know that we have failed to keep the commandments.  God’s wisdom shows us to be sinners, but our wisdom tries to overcome God’s wisdom.  In our wisdom we rationalize our sin, we make excuses, we look for loopholes.  But there are no loopholes.  The Ten Commandments do not bend.  We need Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the Gospel reading today we see Jesus deal with those that added something new and different to God’s Temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus gets angry, makes a whip, and drives the money changers and those selling animals out of the temple.  The temple is not there to conduct business.  The Temple is not there for the religious leaders to make money. The Temple is God’s house; where God is present with His people.

The Jews demand a sign of Jesus’ authority to clear the temple and Jesus responds, John 2:19 (ESV)  19 … “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[3]  Jesus is speaking about His body which will be the new temple.  God’s presence with His people will be in Jesus, the Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  This sounds like foolishness to those who hear Jesus that day at the temple.  Still today, Christ crucified and raised from the dead sounds like foolishness to so many supposedly wise people.  Even those in the church can start to think they need something more.

Far too often pastors and churches start looking to the world of business to find ideas to try to be “successful”.  We seek after the next, best, latest, greatest thing that will bring people to church.  There is always someone selling a new plan or program that promises to be the silver bullet to save the Church.

But we do not need the latest and greatest.  We don’t need something new. There is only one message that will save the church and it has not changed.  We have the cross.  We are only given to preach Christ crucified.  This is not glamorous.  This will not teach you to dream big dreams and achieve your big dreams.  We preach Christ crucified and Christ crucified for you is not received any better now than it was in Jesus’ time.

The cross is a stumbling block to people.  The cross is a scandal.  What kind of God puts his own Son to death on a cross?  What kind of God is whipped and stripped and nailed to a wooden beam to slowly suffocate and die?  What kind of God is that?

The cross is folly to so many.  So many people are convinced that they are far too smart for Jesus on the cross.  So many are convinced that they don’t need Jesus.  They don’t need His forgiveness.  Their sin is not a big deal.  What is sin anyway?  In this world that so cherishes worldly wisdom there is a great temptation to leave the Ten Commandments and  Jesus behind and look for the next, best, latest, greatest, newest thing.  Chasing after the newest religious fad is pretty exciting; always something new to learn; always some new or some revived ancient practice by which to be impressed.  During NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics one of their reporters visited a Buddhist shrine and knelt down to pray to seek enlightenment.  It is such an exciting world out there in cutting edge new and old religions.

The true Church is left preaching Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins because that is what you need.  You have the cross, the power of God for salvation.  The world thinks you are a fool, but you have the cross, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  You have the cross.

Just as Faith took her first breath of life on Monday she will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit next Sunday at her baptism.  At your baptism you received the Breath of Eternal life in the Holy Spirit.  You are born again in water and Spirit.  You are baptized into Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  This is more profound than you can comprehend.  Just as you cannot comprehend the incredible complexity of a single fertilized human ovum, you cannot understand the depth of love shown in the grace given you through Christ crucified.  Even though you do not fully understand, you have Christ crucified for you.You have the cross.  You have 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

 

Who are you?

questions_11156cLent 2, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 25, 2018
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 5:1-11, Mark 8:27-38

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

 

Who are you?

How do you find yourself?  How do you discover yourself and find out who you really are?

Some people take a journey of self-discovery.  That could be a long hike or it could be a trip or a pilgrimage.  In college I went to study for a semester in Reutlingen, Germany.  We had classes Monday through Thursday morning but we were free to travel Thursday afternoon through Sunday evening and we had German rail Tramper passes with which we could go anywhere in Germany on the trains.  I would travel with groups from our school and I would travel alone.  I was 19 years old traveling alone in Germany.  No cell phone.  No internet.  It was an adventure and I learned a lot about myself and got to meet lots of other folks.

But for all the time I spent alone there, self-discovery did not begin or end on that trip to Germany.  I believe travel can aid some in self-discovery; or maybe that is just my excuse for taking trips.

Who are you?  What is your identity.  When someone asks, “Who are you?”  What do you tell them about?  Your name?  Your occupation?  Your family?  Who are you?

In our Old Testament reading we see Abram and Sarai having their identities changed. Abram, the 99 year old childless man, will now be Abraham, the father of a multitude of nations.  His wife Sarai, the infertile elderly woman, is now Sarah the mother of nations and kings.

God changed Abram’s identity.  God changed Sarai’s identity.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

In our Gospel reading Jesus’ identity is the question.  Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

“John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”  There is confusion as to who Jesus is; the people don’t understand.

So Jesus asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered Him, ‘You are the Christ.”

Peter has spoken for the disciples.  The disciples are clear.  Jesus is the Christ.  That is His identity.  He is the Messiah.  The one promised from of old.

And then Jesus explains to the disciples about the Christ identity, Mark 8:31-32 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. [1]

Jesus is telling the disciples about who He is.  Peter declared for the disciples that Jesus is the Christ.  Jesus is telling them what that Christ identity means.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

Even though Jesus is the very one teaching the disciples about the Christ identity Peter thinks he knows better.  Peter rejects this identity for Jesus.  Peter, the disciple, takes Jesus, the Christ, aside and begins to rebuke him.  Peter thinks he knows better than Jesus about the Christ identity.

Suffering, rejection, dying, rising?  What does that have to do with being Christ?  Being Christ is about glory and victory.  Or so Peter thinks.  The devil tried to tempt Jesus to glory in the wilderness and now Peter is continuing the process.  Peter wants a glorious, victorious Christ to drive out the Romans and restore the Jewish nation.  But this is not what it means to be the Christ.  So Jesus responds forcefully, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus is the Christ.  The Christ needs be rejected and suffer and go to the cross and die for the sins of the world.  The Christ needs to rise from the dead and reign as Lord to await the final day of the resurrection of all the dead.  Being the Christ is not just about glory and victory.  It is also about suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.

Who are you?  Who is Jesus?

Your journey of self-discovery can take you to some pretty dark places.  Spending time alone with your thoughts can quickly convince you that you have a lot of room for improvement; you have a lot of ugliness as part of your identity.  The identity that you show to others is not your “true you” identity.  You would be deeply ashamed if the “true you” identity were to come out.  The journey of self-discovery can take you to the realization that you have the capacity for great evil.  For the most part you stifle it; you fight it; but you know that it is there.

Who are you?  Your “true you”, natural-born, identity is that of a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than you love others.  That is your identity; or is it?

You can try to lie to yourself and cover up your “true you” identity with a “fool you” identity where you pretend that have got it all together.  You can try to build up a “fool you” identity in which you can take care of whatever problems you encounter. You can defeat any foe that comes you way.  You can do whatever you want to do.  You can take a journey of self-discovery that leads you to believe that you are good enough, smart enough, tough enough.  But that journey of self-discovery is actually a journey of self-deception; a journey to fool others and even fool yourself.

Who are you?  Your “true you”, natural-born, identity is that of a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than you love others.  That is your identity; or is it?

Your journey of self-discovery needs to go back to your watery past.  I don’t mean a cruise or a trip to the beach where you ponder some made up idea that you evolved up from ocean critters, but rather your journey of self-discovery needs to take you back to your watery past at the baptismal font.  At the font you were given a new identity.  You were spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God, but God washed that away and changed your identity.  You were called sinner.  God changed that identity.  Now you are called saint.  God gave you a new identity.  No longer are you a selfish wrongdoer who loves sin more than others, now you are a new creation in Christ redeemed to do the good works prepared for you.

This new identity is through God’s amazing grace; through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, but this is not a ticket to endless glory and victory.  Your new, true identity is of one who has been baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Your new, true identity is one who has died to sin and been raised to live in Christ.

Who are you?  You are a little Christ; a Christian.  What does this mean?  Remember Jesus’ teaching about the Christ’s identity; suffering, death, and resurrection.  Your identity in Christ is also one of suffering, death and resurrection.  Jesus tells the disciples; including you, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Life as a Christian is not a life of personal glory.  It is a life of humble service and sacrifice.  It is an on-going struggle against besetting sins.

Life as a Christian is not an easy life of victory after victory, it is a life of daily struggle against the evil in the world and a daily struggle to love and serve others who are often difficult to love and serve. In this life there will be suffering, there will be death.  But you have the promise of resurrection.  This life is not all that there is.  The cemetery is not the end.  You will rise from the dead on the last day to live forever with Jesus, the Christ.

Take a daily journey of self-discovery back to the font and to the cross and remember your new identity as a baptized child of God washed clean by the blood of Jesus.  Don’t say, “I was baptized.”  Say, “I am baptized!”

Who are you?  You can answer with confidence.  “I am a new creation in Christ.”  “I still struggle with sin, but I am forgiven.”  “I am a Christian.”  “I have eternal life in Christ.”

Who are you?  “I am baptized into Christ.”  Amen.

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

 

What kind of monster is God?

Rembrandt_Abraham_en_Isaac,_1634Lent 1 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 18, 2018
Genesis 22:1-8, James 1:12-18, Mark 1:9-15

Sermons online:
Text:                         pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Another week, another horrific school shooting, another senseless massacre where teachers and students are gunned down mercilessly in their school.  It is too terrible to imagine the terror, the pain, the grief caused by one evil individual bent on death and destruction.  It is incomprehensibly awful for anyone to murder another person, but it is especially appalling when the victim is an innocent child.  What kind of monster can kill a child?

And then we come to our Old Testament reading for today and we find that it is about the planned killing of a child.  And even worse than someone killing a child, a man is ordered to kill his own child.  This is truly disturbing.  What kind of monster would order a man to kill his own child?  What kind of twisted, terrible thing is this?  Who would do this?  What kind of evil, awful, sick, cruel being would do this?  Oh.  It is the Lord God Almighty who gives Abraham the order to do this monstrous thing.  God Himself orders Abraham to kill Isaac.  What is going on here?

At times I have online discussions with an atheist from Canada.  One of his proofs that God is not real is this story from Genesis.  What kind of God would order a man to kill his only beloved son?  It is a good question.

In the Old Testament God condemns the worship of the pagan god Molech.  Part of the worship of Molech was to place an infant in the idol’s outstretched arms with a fire underneath and burn the infant alive as a sacrifice to this pagan god.  The Lord God rightly condemns this perverse practice over and over again.  And yet here in Genesis we see God ordering Abraham to kill his son Isaac.

Believers and unbelievers alike read this account of Abraham and Isaac with revulsion at the very idea that God would demand child sacrifice.  We do not sacrifice our children.

It seems everyone is deeply disturbed by this Bible story about child sacrifice, but I think that society’s revulsion at the account of Abraham being instructed to sacrifice Isaac is insincere.  It is insincere because as a nation we do sacrifice our children.  We sacrifice around 3,000 unborn children each day in the United States on the altar of sexual freedom.  That is 125 infants every hour.  We need to repent of our past sins and return to the Lord our God for forgiveness.  We must continue to work to stop the slaughter of infants in our nation and the world because we should not sacrifice our children on any altar.

     Believers and unbelievers alike read this account of Abraham and Isaac with revulsion at the very idea that God would demand child sacrifice.  We do not sacrifice our children.

And this is why this lesson is so disturbing.  How could God command Abraham to do such a terrible thing?  What kind of monster is our God?

But as we slow down and look at this lesson we can see what God is really doing here.  The horror of child sacrifice is a big part of this.  God is testing Abraham to do the absolutely unthinkable.  Genesis 22:2 (ESV) 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”[1]

But hold on.  Something is happening here.  God is painting a picture.  “Take your son, whom you love.”  Take your beloved son.  Where have we heard this today?  “Beloved son?”  This is what God the Father says to Jesus at His baptism.  Mark 1:11 (ESV) 11 …“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [2]  It is what God the Father calls Jesus at the Transfiguration.  Mark 9:7 (ESV) 7 …“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”[3]

We see Abraham take the wood of the burnt offering and lay it on Isaac his son as they head up the mountain for the sacrifice.  Isaac is carrying on his back the very wood on which he is to be put to death.  Who else do we see carrying on His back the wood on which He will be sacrificed?

We hear Isaac say, “Genesis 22:7 (ESV) 7 … “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”[4]

Abraham replies, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  In the Gospel of John, When John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching he says, “John 1:29 (ESV)…“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world![5] God Himself provides the Lamb for sacrifice.

Isaac is a type for Christ.  Through this account we see God painting a picture of what is to come.  We see the future when God provides the lamb for sacrifice.  We see God’s plan.

God never intends for Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac; instead He is giving us a picture of what is to come.  The horror of child sacrifice is part of the test and part of the future picture.  What God asks Abraham to do is shocking, and because of that we get a better picture of the shocking love God has for us; sending His only begotten son to die for us.  God was never going to let Abraham harm Isaac.  As Abraham raises the knife to kill Isaac, Genesis 22:11-12 (ESV) 11 …the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”[6]

Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah bring into focus the horror of sacrificing your only son.  It shows how absolutely appalling this is.  It shows that God takes this appalling horror on Himself by offering His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the Lamb of God.  Jesus, the beloved son, carries the wood of the cross to Calvary.

For Abraham, God provides a ram with his horns caught in a thicket.  For us God provides the Lamb of God with His head caught in a crown of thorns.

Jesus is stripped and laid on the cross.  A nail is place on his wrist and the Roman soldier raises his hammer.  God was there with Abraham to protect his beloved son Isaac.  No one is there to protect Jesus.  No one is there to stop the Roman hammer driving nails into Jesus’ flesh.  God the father has forsaken Jesus; He has given Him over to be punished for the sins of the world.  The Father allows Jesus to suffer and die for your sins and mine.  God provides the divine sacrifice.  Jesus passes the test; He conquers sin and death by rising from the dead.

The Lord tests you and you so often fail to do the hard things that He calls you to do.  The devil tempts you and you so often give into the temptation.  Jesus passes the test.  After the Lord Jesus is baptized into our sin the Holy Spirit drives Him into the wilderness and God the Father tests Jesus by allowing Satan to tempt Him in the wilderness and Jesus passes the test.  Jesus resists the lies and deceptions and accusations of the devil.  Jesus passes the test where we would fail and then offers Himself up as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world.  You are baptized into Christ.  His perfection has been given to you.  In Christ you pass the test.

We do not sacrifice our children on any altar.  God does not ask for human sacrifice from any of His creatures.  God Himself provides the Lamb.

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

 

What does rising from the dead mean?

mountain_17218pTransfiguration 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 11, 2018
2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:1-6, Mark 9:2-9

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

What did you mean by that?  In the world of text messaging with no face to face interaction and with auto correct, there is a lot of misunderstanding.  Sometimes punctuation can make all the difference.  “The mother said the child is mad.”  Who is mad?  Depends on the commas.  It is frustrating to be misunderstood when you are speaking and it is annoying to not understand when someone else is speaking.

Often when we misunderstand we are tempted to just nod our head and smile as if we did comprehend.  When we were trained to work with campers at Bethesda camps for handicapped adults they instructed us not to just nod and smile, but to really work at understanding what your friend is trying to say.  But this takes a lot of effort and patience.

And then sometimes, when you are having a conversation and you understand what they say, you may not understand what they mean.  Someone tells you, “I saw a man on a hill with a telescope.”  There are at least five possible meanings of that statement.  There is so much miscommunication in the world.  This is what you said, but what did you mean?

At the end of our Gospel reading today we find Jesus along with Peter, James and John descending from the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus is telling them not to tell anyone what they have seen, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.  The very next verse shows that the disciples still don’t understand, Mark 9:10 (ESV) 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.[1]  Questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

You would think that the three disciples would be having a moment of clarity.  Peter, James and John have just seen the Glory of God shining forth from Jesus as He stands with Elijah and Moses.  God the Father spoke to them from an enveloping cloud.  Mark 9:7 (ESV) 7 …“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”[2]

Now for those, like me, who are not that good at picking up subtleties, here’s a big clue to figuring things out.  God the Father says, “Listen to Jesus.”

Jesus has already been telling the disciples what is going to happen.  Six days prior to the Transfiguration, Mark 8:31-33 (ESV) 31 …[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly.”

Peter likely doesn’t even hear anything beyond Jesus being killed and Peter knows one thing for sure; that will not happen to Jesus while Peter is around.  “And Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”[3]

Six days later Peter sees firsthand the glory of God radiating out from Jesus with Elijah and Moses present, but Peter still doesn’t understand what this rising from the dead might mean.

  Now for those, like me, who are not that good at picking up subtleties, here’s a big clue to figuring things out.  God the Father says, “Listen to Jesus.”

Jesus tells the disciples again in Mark 9:31-32 (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.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. [4]

They were still questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

In Mark 10:33-34 (ESV) Jesus tells them again, 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.”[5]  And in response to this, James and John ask Jesus to let them sit at His right and left in His glory.  They were still questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

God the Father told them to listen to Jesus, and Jesus has been telling them what is going to happen, but the disciples do not understand.   And they are still questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

Jesus will give more clues.  Mark 10:45 (ESV) 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [6]

Jesus’ life will be given as a ransom.  And Jesus teaches about what will happen on the last day, Mark 13:27 (ESV) 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. [7]

Something big is happening here.  Jesus continues to teach as the cross looms near, Mark 14:24 (ESV) 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.[8]

Mark 14:61-62 (ESV) 61 … the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”[9]

What does rising from the dead mean?

The earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end with Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James and Salome at the tomb hearing that Jesus has risen from the dead Mark 16:8 (ESV) 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [10]

They were still questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

Here you are, 2,000 years later, with a longer perspective; able to see the big picture.  You see the Transfiguration of Jesus and you know what rising from the dead means.

Now the Transfiguration can inform.  You can learn that Jesus’ clothes shone brightly; Elijah and Moses were present; the three disciples were confused.  But the Transfiguration should not simply inform, but transform.  The Transfiguration transforms you because it shows you who Jesus is; and this changes everything.  You look through the transfiguration to see everything else that takes place.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is a filter through which you look at Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and also through which you look at your life, death and resurrection.

Seeing Jesus shining with the glory of God shows you who Jesus is.  Jesus is God in flesh, so as we look through the Transfiguration to the crucifixion we know that His suffering and death on the cross for you is not the end for Jesus.  Jesus will rise from the dead and ascend into heaven and Jesus will again shine with the glory of God.  Because He is God in flesh; He is God with us.

Look through the Transfiguration at your own life, death and resurrection.  You are a baptized child of God.  You have had God’s name watered onto you and you belong to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as we saw with little Clara this morning.  You are fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.

Life in this valley of the shadow of death is difficult.  This life is hard with disability, disease and dementia.  This life is hard with anger, hatred and violence.  There is a hopeless saying paraphrased, “Life is hard and then you die.”  And that is true, but looking through the Transfiguration you know that there is more.  This life is not all that there is.  The difficulties of life do not rob you of eternal joy.  The hard times in life are often opportunities to serve others; to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.  Death is not the end.  You will rise from the dead on the last day.  As a follower of Jesus you take up your cross daily to do the hard things in life; to live out life in your various vocations loving and serving others; loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.  You carry the cross in life, but you carry that cross knowing you will rise from the dead and you too, clothed in a white robe, will shine with the glory of God on the last day.

No longer do you need to question what this rising from the dead means.  You know what rising from the dead means.  There is no misunderstanding.

There are people who say they believe in Jesus, but they don’t believe He rose from the dead.  They say Jesus was a great prophet; Jesus was a great teacher; but that He didn’t rise from the dead because that doesn’t make sense.  But if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then he is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, either a liar or a lunatic.  He told His disciples he would rise from the dead.  He told them over and over and over.  And then He did rise from the dead; and you know what that means.

It means Jesus is not a liar or a lunatic; He is Lord.

It means there is no misunderstanding.

It means Jesus is the Son of God.

It means that His sacrifice as a ransom for many is enough.

It means that Jesus’ word is true.

It means that His promise to you in your baptism is solid.

It means that you, who are in Christ, will rise from the dead on the last day.

It means you will shine like sun in a white robe in the heavenly city with Jesus, Elijah, Moses and all saints.

It means your sins are forgiven.

It means you have eternal life.

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

 

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

 

What to do with the riff raff?

2015-09-18 12.02.38 (1280x720)Epiphany 5, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 4, 2018
Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27, Mark 1:29-39

 

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

As many of you know, Jeannette and I were blessed to get away for a week in January to go to a wonderful resort in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed at the Majestic Elegance which is a beautiful place with lush landscaping and lots and lots of palm trees.  There is something almost magical about being around palm trees in January.

When I was booking the trip there was an option to upgrade to the Elegance Club for a small fee.  The club is an adult’s only section of the resort with private pools, special snack and drink areas and a private section on the beach with Bali Beds.  You even get a butler.  It sounded like a good idea so we did the upgrade.

When we arrived at check-in the clerk informed us that we would not check in at the front desk, there was a separate area for club members.  We received special coconut shell wristbands to identify us as such.  The head butler gave us a tour of the resort and showed us to our room.  During the week we were able to lie in the shade in the adult section of the beach which was relatively quiet and peaceful.  We had special towels so the beach monitors would know if a non-club member tried to sneak into the club.

There were signs around our section of the resort showing it was for members only.  We saw a couple with two small children wander past one of those signs and a butler informed them that they did not belong in that area; it was just for club members.  Jeannette and I joked that they were protecting us from the riffraff.  This was a new experience for us; normally we are the riffraff.  For that week it was fun to be members of the club.

     The church is indeed a sanctuary from the evils of the world but also the Church is here to reach out to the world with the Good News of Jesus.  The Church is the gathering of believers in Christ and yet the church is not an exclusive club for members only.

At a resort it was nice to be in the club, but I fear that sometimes that being a member of the church can start to feel like being a member of the club.  Like we are in the club, away from all the riffraff on the outside.  We can start to feel like we are in and they are out because we were smart enough to choose the upgrade.

There is a little sense of this in our baptismal service:  “…Grant that she be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers…”

The church is indeed a sanctuary from the evils of the world but also the Church is here to reach out to the world with the Good News of Jesus.  The Church is the gathering of believers in Christ and yet the church is not an exclusive club for members only.

This is the hard task of the Church; to be, at the same time, a refuge and fortress for sinners and also be welcoming and reaching out to a world of sinners.

In our Gospel lesson today we see Jesus in Capernaum healing Peter’s mother-in-law.  He heals her and she goes back to doing her normal tasks.  Jesus helps her and restores her to her vocation.  Word spreads of what Jesus can do and that evening, once the Sabbath has ended, the whole city brings their sick and demon-possessed loved ones to Jesus.  Jesus heals the sick, and silences and casts out the demons.  Jesus had a great following there in Capernaum; He could set up shop right there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and serve those people; but He doesn’t settle in.

Early the next morning Jesus goes to a desolate place to pray but the people cannot leave Him alone, Simon and the others go searching for Jesus and when they find Him let Him know that the town is waiting for Jesus to continue what He was doing the day before.  “Everyone is looking for you.”

But Jesus is not content to settle down in Capernaum and just minister to the people there.  Jesus did not come for a select few; Jesus came for all.  Jesus came to help the downtrodden all over; Jesus came to bring His Good News to all people.

We see this in our Epistle reading as well.  Paul preaches the Gospel because that is what He has been given to do.  Not just to one group of people, but to many.  Paul says that He is flexible in how He preaches to reach the most people possible so that He might save some by bringing the Good News of Jesus.  1 Corinthians 9:22 (ESV) 22 … I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.[1]

The Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not something just for a select few; Christianity is not some kind of members only club.  The Good News is for all people.

The challenge is how to reach out to all people; to be all things to all people, without compromising the truth of scripture.  We want to reach out to all and be welcoming to all without changing the truth of God, because all people need the unadulterated truth of the Bible.

How do we protect ourselves and each other from the devil and the world and, at the same time, remain open and welcoming to all who seek the Lord?  How do we nurture and care for those in our midst and also reach out to all people with the Good News and invite them into our midst.

We are blessed at Immanuel to still have our school where we can reach out to so many children and families with the love of Jesus, and bring them to the waters of baptism and into the family of faith.  We get the children for 30 hours a week to care for them and love them and teach them about all that Jesus has done for them.  We are blessed that we are able to reach out to more and more students each year to the point where we need to build more classrooms to hold the new students.  This is a tremendous opportunity for Immanuel to continue to bring the Good News of Jesus to this community.  You make this possible.  You have enabled this outreach to so many children to survive and to thrive.  You have been the supporters with finances and prayers for so long.  Together, we reach out through the school.

Together you help the Gospel go out into the world through the support of Missionaries.  Together we support missionaries in Mexico, Ethiopia and Kenya.  Our children on Sunday morning bring their offerings to support children at Lutheran schools in Liberia, West Africa.  A lot is being done and I challenge you to consider doing more.  We can do more as a congregation and you can each do more individually.  Go online to lcms.org and search for missionary support, learn about a missionary and the country where they serve and prayerfully consider making a one time or ongoing gift to support the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world.  Prayerfully consider a short term or long term mission trip to help bring the Gospel to those around the world.  Go to lcms.org and search for serve.  This is not for everyone but it may be for you.  Find ways to volunteer here at Immanuel or in the community.  Help out at Pathway to Hope; the pregnancy care center, with donations and volunteer service.

Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with friends and family and those you encounter in life.  Hear God’s Word, study God’s Word, 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) 15 …always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;[2]  Invite them to join you on Sunday morning or a Wednesday in Lent to hear the Good News of Jesus here at Immanuel.

You know the Good News and you are compelled to share it; it is what you have been given to do each in your own way.

Not everyone has been given to preach from the pulpit or teach Sunday School or evangelize door to door.  But you have each been given the great Good News of eternal life in Christ and the ability to share it with others in your own way.  With your spouse, children, your grandchildren, coworkers, neighbors.  You have many roles in life and many opportunities.  Pray for more opportunities.  And I know this is hard.  Sharing the Gospel is often a difficult, seemingly fruitless task.  There are no silver bullets that if you can just say the right thing in just the right way people will be compelled to repent and believe in Jesus.  We plant seeds, we water seeds, but God gives the growth.

The Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus is not a treasure to be horded, but a treasure to be shared.  And the more you share this treasure the greater the treasure becomes.  The Good News of salvation in Jesus is not meant for a chosen few but is intended for all.

The Church is not an exclusive club for members only.  There is no special wristband or password to get in.  Immanuel Lutheran Church is God’s mission outpost here in Hamilton to bring the Good News to this community and the region and to the world.  The Church exists to love and care for those in Christ and to continue to spread the Good News to those who are not yet in Christ.  The church is not here to keep the riffraff out; we are the riffraff saved by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Jesus has paid the price for all to be in His Church.

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

 

Gargoyles, lies and accusations.

gargoyle2Epiphany 4 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 28, 2018
Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

If you ever go to Europe and tour the churches or look at pictures of medieval cathedrals one thing you will notice is that they often have gargoyles on the corners of the building.  Often these function as elaborate downspouts for rainwater but they are also thought to frighten off evil spirits and protect those inside.

How quaint.  Frighten off evil spirits.  Those simple-minded medieval peasants were so superstitious, weren’t they?  How can anyone believe in evil spirits?  We are way too smart for that nowadays?  Right?

Well, we think we are.  We like to think that we are too smart to believe in such things as demons and evil spirits; that we have moved beyond these things; that we are too sophisticated to think like this.

But evil spirits are real.  Evil spirits are scary.  And they are still very much around and active in the world, even if we try to ignore them.  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.[1]

The devil tried to get Jesus and stop Him from doing what He came to do, so after Jesus’ death and resurrection the devil knew his power over Jesus was gone so the devil, in his anger, now targets the followers of Jesus.  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…[2]

One way that the devil and his minions attack you is through lies and accusations.  The demons try to convince you that you are not good enough for God.  The evil spirits whisper in your ear, “How can God love a sinner like you?”  “Who are you fooling to think you can sit here in church and pretend you are a Christian?”

As a baptized follower of Jesus you are a target.  At your baptism and at your confirmation you renounced the devil and all His works and all His ways.  You have renounced the devil and now his evil spirits are all around you looking for openings to drag you back into slavery to sin and the devil.  Look around this morning at the folks to your right and left, in front of you and behind you. Everyone you see is a target for evil spirits tempting them into sin and evil; trying to draw them away from Jesus and His Church.  These, your brothers and sisters in Christ, are targets for demons and you are as well.

One way that the devil and his minions attack you is through lies and accusations.  The demons try to convince you that you are not good enough for God.  The evil spirits whisper in your ear, “How can God love a sinner like you?”  “Who are you fooling to think you can sit here in church and pretend you are a Christian?”  Or the evil one tries to convince you that you don’t need Jesus, “You don’t need this, you are good enough all on your own.”  “What are you doing here, getting up early, wasting your time with all these pathetic sinners.  You are too good for them.”  The devil tries to convince you to listen to him rather than listen to Jesus, “Did God really say that you need forgiveness?  Did God really say that you are a sinner?”  “Did God really say anything at all?  The Bible is just an old book, how can you know any of it is true?”

The demons are good at what they do.  They know which lie or accusations will be most effective for you.  Do you tend toward despair?  Do you tend toward self-righteousness?  Do you tend to doubt the Word of God?  They will tailor an attack just for you; to hit you where you are weak.  Do you think you are worse than others?  Do you think you’re better?  Do you think you are too smart for God?  The demons’ lies and accusations are a continual monolog in your ear trying to convince you that you don’t belong in God’s house; this isn’t the place for you.  “What have you to do with Jesus?”

When Jesus goes to the synagogue in Capernaum His presence prompts an unclean spirit to cry out, Mark 1:24 (ESV) 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”[3]

Jesus’ presence causes the demon to cry out.  What does Jesus do?  Does He have a discussion with the demon?  Does He debate and negotiate with the unclean spirit?  Does He try to reason with him?  No.  Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit.  Jesus silences the demon and drives him out of the man.  “Be silent, and come out of him!”  Jesus has the authority to silence the demon and drive him out.

Jesus still has that authority.  Jesus’ presence in your life makes you a target for the evil one.  The demons are out to get you and your presence here in church brings out their voices of lies and accusations.   But Jesus still has authority to silence the evil spirits.  “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins.”

Jesus has the authority to silence the accusations of the devil because Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.  When the pastor announces forgiveness of sins it is accomplished by Jesus’ authority.  You hear the words of absolution and you know you are right with God; not because you are good enough but because Jesus is good enough.  You are right with God even though you do not deserve it.  You are right with God through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

You are here by the grace of God; a baptized child of God, forgiven by Jesus, gathered with all your brothers and sisters in Christ.  And together we stand to resist the lies and accusations of the devil, loving one another and caring for one another.  Together we reject the self-centered, pleasure-seeking ways of the world and love and care for each other.

Together we care for one another and protect one another.  This is what St. Paul is talking about in our lesson from 1 Corinthians.  You can have lots of theological knowledge, but if you don’t have love, the knowledge can be damaging.  You can know all the ways of redemption in Christ’s blood and be confident in your salvation but you still need to deal with each other in humble love and care.  “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.”  Love builds up.  The love that greets one another by name.  The love that reaches out to those who are hurting.  The love that overcomes awkwardness and asks the name of that lady two rows up whose name you should know but can’t remember.  The love that sends cards and visits and prays.  The love that holds your tongue when you are tempted to speak harsh words.  The love of Christ flowing into you and out of you that builds up the Church; the Body of Christ.

Look around this morning at each other and see your brothers and sisters in Christ.  See the one you don’t know very well.  See the one who is new.  See the one caring for young children.  See the one slowed down by age.  Love and care for her because she is a sister for whom Christ died.  Love and care for him because he is a brother for whom Christ died.

Biblical knowledge is good.  It is good to know the truth of scripture, but remember that there are no high horses in church to climb up on and look down on others.  We do want to have good knowledge of scripture.  We want good knowledge so that we can know and teach the truth of scripture, but not to use knowledge to tempt a weak brother or sister in Christ.

For the Corinthians it was Christians with “knowledge” eating meat sacrificed to idols because they know that idols are nothing.  But for the brother who just came out of that religion of idol worship this looks like they are taking part in idol worship.

We don’t have an issue of meat sacrificed to idols, but we do need to take care not to cause others to stumble because of our freedom.  I’m not going to give specifics because it is more complex than just a list.  Because remember we are all targets of the evil one and we do not want to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble and be lost to the devil’s lies.  We are called to love and care for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We may not have gargoyles on our building but we are still surrounded by evil spirits seeking to harm us; seeking to pull us away from Christ.  This morning you are engaging in a counter-cultural movement by admitting that you are a sinner who needs Jesus and gathering together, not just for yourself but for each other to resist the devil and the world.  You are called to live out life as a Christian not focusing on yourself, but focusing on each other; not being torn apart, but standing together to resist the lies and accusations of the devil and receiving the forgiveness of Jesus.  Amen.

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

 

[2][1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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

 

You and Jesus are like water and salt.

photolibrary_photo_of_salt_sprinkled_into_water

Baptism of our Lord
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
January 14, 2018
Genesis 1:1-5, Romans 6:1-11, Mark 1:4-11

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

You have a quarter cup of salt and a cup of water.  You pour the salt into the bottom of a drinking glass and then pour in the water and stir, what do you have now?  Saltwater.  Saltwater is a solution.  The salt and the water are now merged together as one; if left alone it will remain in solution.  You can only separate the two items by boiling off the water or letting the water evaporate.  The salt and the water have merged into a new identity with each other.  They are one.

At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River He is baptized into your sin and the sin of the world.  Pure, holy, innocent Jesus becomes one with the ugly filthiness of sin.  Jesus is mixed into your sin and he becomes one with your sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[1]

  At your baptism you are merged with Jesus.  You are made one with Jesus.  In the waters of baptism you are mixed together with Jesus like water poured into salt.  In baptism you lose your individual identity and you are made one with Christ.  You and Christ are intertwined.  You are identified with Christ; you are a Christian.

Jesus and your sin are inseparable until Jesus takes your sin to Golgotha; the place of the skull, and your sin, and my sin, and the sin of the world are boiled off of Jesus through His suffering and death.  Jesus pays the price for your transgressions with every blow of a fist, every lash of the whip, every nail driven into His flesh; every agonizing gasp for breath as the sin is violently removed from Jesus.  Jesus is the sacrifice for sin giving His body and blood and His very life.  He gives everything…everything to save you.  He merges Himself with your sin and He is brutally purged of your sin through His suffering and death.  He rises on the third day, again pure, holy, innocent.

At your baptism you are merged with Jesus.  You are made one with Jesus.  In the waters of baptism you are mixed together with Jesus like water poured into salt.  In baptism you lose your individual identity and you are made one with Christ.  You and Christ are intertwined.  You are identified with Christ; you are a Christian.

In baptism you have been merged with Jesus.  You, body and soul, are one with the Lord God Almighty.  In baptism you are merged with Jesus in His death on the cross.  His death becomes yours; for your benefit.  Romans 6:3-4 (ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.[2]

You are a Christian; your identity is in Christ; you are one with Christ.  In baptism you are born again into new life in Christ.

This new life in Christ is your life to live in this world.  This new life in Christ also means that death will not defeat you forever.  Romans 6:5 (ESV)  5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[3]

Being made one with Christ in Baptism means that your body will be raised from dead on the last day, and body and soul reunited, clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness you will march into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem to live forever with Christ.  You will be one with Christ forever.

In baptism you died with Christ.  Now you live with Christ.  You bear the name of Christ.  You are a Christian; made one with Christ.  This is good news, but it also makes you a target for you are living in a world that hates the name of Christ.  You live in a world that hates Christ and since you are one with Christ, the world hates you for bearing the name of Christ.

The world is all about self-serving greed and pleasure and egotism and power.  The world teaches you to be all about yourself; all about what is in it for me; all about how does this help me; all about how many likes I can get on the latest selfie; all about how much attention can I get.  All about me, me, me.  The world tells you that you need to sacrifice everything and anything in order to follow your dreams and achieve success.  We admire successful people.   But many whom we admire are those who have left a trail of broken marriages and families and relationships in their wake as they relentlessly pursue wealth and fame.

The recent Pixar Film, “Coco”, has a refreshing message about success.  Without giving away too much of the plot, the film’s big message is that there are things more important than being famous and successful.  The film is based around a 12 year old boy named Miguel participating in the myths associated with the Day of the Dead in Mexico, but the overall message is one that resonates.  There are many things more precious than your dreams.

This world tells you to love yourself above everything and to hate Christ who teaches humble love and service to others.  There is great temptation in this world to sin.  Temptation that calls to you like an irresistible Siren song, “Come on…what are you waiting for…it’s no big deal…everyone is doing it except you…you deserve to be happy…you deserve to follow your dreams…you deserve to do whatever you want to do…if it feels good, how could it be wrong?”  And sin lights a little fire under you to try to separate you from Jesus.  The devil wants to gently trick you and tempt you into sinful situations so he can turn up the heat and boil you apart from Jesus before you know what is happening.  He wants to pull you into ongoing sin and so separate you from Jesus.  The devil wants to slowly turn up the heat so you don’t notice sin increasingly taking charge of your life.  The temperature increases and increases and one day you find you are boiling away from Jesus, you are just steam floating away in the air.  The devil wants to normalize sin in your life so that you live in sin.  The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to convince you that living in sin is the natural way to live.  And being, by nature sinful and unclean it is true.  So we try to convince ourselves that sin is okay.  I like to sin, Jesus likes to forgive sins.  It is a perfect situation.

What does St. Paul tells us?  Romans 6:1-2 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?[4]

Don’t be deceived by the devil.  Don’t let him turn up the heat on you.  Do not continue to live in sin and let the devil separate you from Jesus.  Renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.  Repent of your sins.  Turn away from sin and turn back to Jesus.  Confess your sins and receive the living water of forgiveness.  Remain one with Christ.

The devil has another trick.  He doesn’t so much get you to sin as he just gets you to separate yourself from Jesus; just stay away from worshiping the king.  Stay away from hearing the words of forgiveness.  Stay away from the preaching of the Law and the Gospel.  Stay away from receiving the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion.  The devil has clever little lies.  Did God really say that you have to go to church?   You don’t need to go to church.  You will be just fine.  Being in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.  You don’t need church.  You can do it on your own.

And it doesn’t happen fast, but over time you just evaporate away from Jesus like a glass of salt water left on a windowsill.  After a while the water is gone and all that is left is the salt.  You evaporate away and all that is left is Jesus; waiting for you to return.

You need Jesus.  More than that; you are one with Jesus.  Living in this world you need to consistently hear the Good News of forgiveness again and again.  You need to hear the preaching of Law and Gospel.  You need to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.  You are one with Christ living in a world that is anti Christ.  You need to be reminded of who you are.  You need to remember your identity.  You are a Christian.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You are one with God 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