Peace can be dangerous

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Pentecost 10 2019, Proper 15
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 18, 2019
Jeremiah 23:16-29, Hebrews 11:17-31, 12:1-3, Luke 12:49-53

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

This past week was the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival.  Three days of Peace and Music at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  The Vietnam War was raging and the younger generation was rebelling against the social norms.  The hope was to have three days of peace and music in the country.

We really like peace.  Peace is good.  Peace is easy.  Peace feels right.

Who enjoys hearing their children fight?  Who enjoys fighting with their spouse?  Conflict is unpleasant.  We strive for peace in our families.  We strive for peace in the church.  And it is an ongoing struggle because the devil wants nothing more than to be able to tear families apart and tear churches apart over silly conflicts.  We must battle against foolish conflict because peace is good.  But peace is not always good.  Sometimes peace is dangerous.

You can make peace with your sin.

You can make peace with your laziness.  You can decide that you do not need to work hard in this life; you don’t need to do what you are supposed to do.

You can make peace with your anger.  You can say, “This is just who I am.  People need to accept it.”

You can make peace with your sexual immorality.  You can make peace with all sorts of intimacy outside the lifelong marriage union of a man and a woman.  You can convince yourself that pornography is not a problem; fornication is not a problem; adultery is not a problem.  You can make peace and say it is all okay.

You can make peace with your greed.  You can nurture your love of money and excuse it as just the way of the world.

You can make peace with your selfishness and tell yourself it is just human nature.

You can make peace with your separation from the Word of God.  You can say you don’t have time to read the Bible or get to worship.

You can make peace with sin in your life.

Peace can be good, but there is dangerous peace.  You can make peace with false teachers and false teachings about God.  Jesus warns about this in Matthew 7:15 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[1]  Paul teaches that folks will seek something else other than Jesus on the cross for you.  He writes in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (ESV) 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.[2]

You life is an ongoing struggle to remain steadfast in Christ’s Church and the truth of Jesus.  You struggle to resist all the false teachings that surround you and appeal to your sinful, selfish human nature.

Peace can be good, but there is dangerous peace.  You can make peace with false religions.  There are those within churches today who desperately want to believe that there is no hell and that all people will be saved regardless of whether they have faith in Christ or not.

Many of you came to us from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the ELCA, and many of us have relatives who are still members.  The ELCA just held their national convention in Milwaukee August 5-10.  At their convention they passed a resolution that basically states that they do not know what God thinks about other religions that deny Jesus is the Savior.  A concerned delegate proposed to add language that indeed we do know what God thinks because Jesus is God and He told us, in John 14:6 (ESV) 6 … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[3]  A pastor from California spoke against this proposed amendment worried about offending the non-Christian religious leaders present saying, “Frankly I am embarrassed that we are having this conversation right now in front of all of our inter-faith guests.”  Debate was quickly cut off and the amendment was defeated with over 97% of the delegates voting against it.  The ELCA in convention voted that they do not know God’s position on other religions that deny Jesus.  They are making peace with false teachings and this is dangerous.

Martin Luther was sentenced to death by the Holy Roman Emperor because he refused to make peace with the Pope and his false teachings.  Luther is said to have declared, “Here I stand.”

There is a great temptation to make peace with falsehood and sin.  This is a dangerous peace.  And this is a deceitful peace because as soon as you make peace with your sin or with false teaching the goalposts will be moved and you will need to make peace with more sin and worse false teaching.  It is a dangerous peace.

Peace can be good and you should seek peace when it is proper.  You should never seek conflict for the sake of conflict.  Do not engage in conflict over unimportant issues.  Some people, it seems, seek out conflict and think that being in constant conflict is a sure sign of being faithful.  I know people like that on Facebook.  I may, at times, be that person on Facebook.  Being in constant conflict may not be sign of faithfulness, but instead it may just be a sign of being a jerk.  We should always seek for peace when possible, but we should never make peace with false teaching.  We should never make peace with false teachers.

Martin Luther was sentenced to death by the Holy Roman Emperor because he refused to make peace with the Pope and his false teachings.  Luther is said to have declared, “Here I stand.”

Each day you are called to take a stand against false teachers and false teaching.  Each day you are called to take a stand against sin in your own life.  You are called to not make peace with sin, but to be divided from sin.  Jesus comes to divide you from your sin.  He takes your sin to the cross and divides you from that sin as far as the East is from the West.  Jesus divides you from your sin and calls you to struggle each day to divide yourself from sin and false teaching.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  Jesus’ first words to His disciples after His resurrection is, “Peace to you.”  Jesus brings peace.  He brings forgiveness of sin.  He makes you right with God.  He gives you eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus says, Luke 12:51 (ESV) 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.[4]  Jesus brings peace between you and God, but He brings division between you and others.  Jesus brings division because He is exclusive.  There is only one way to the Father and that is through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth; God in flesh; God with us.  You know this is true through faith which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You have peace with God but this brings you into conflict.

Your trust in Jesus divides you from the devil because in baptism, you have renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways.

Your faith in Jesus divides you from the world because Jesus is not of the world.

Having Jesus as your Lord means that you are no longer a slave to the sinful desires of your own flesh.

You are a stranger in the world, but as a baptized child of God you are marked as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You have been washed clean by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross at Calvary.  You have died with Christ and you have been raised with Christ.  Jesus has set you apart from the world so you are not at peace with the world, but you are at peace with God and that is a peace that is beyond understanding.

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

 

The big question.

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SERMON AUDIO

Pentecost 9 2019 Proper 14
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 11, 2019
Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-16, Luke 12:22-34

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

It really is not hard, and yet you can get so confused.  The simple truth gets easily obscured by the clouds of life’s worries.  And this is dangerous because you need to know the truth.  You need to know the truth because the day is coming.

The day is coming when you will stand before the judgement seat of God to answer for your life; to account for all of your sins.  You will stand there unprotected by all your go-to excuses.  There will be no more pretending your sin is not important.  No more rationalizations.  No more blaming others.  It will be you there before the throne of God having to answer for all your sins.  You face a big question.  How am I saved?

You have two options.  You can appeal to your achievement and success in life as demonstrated by your earthly treasures; your awards, your titles, your bank accounts and investments.  Or you can appeal to Jesus Christ on the cross for you; Jesus risen from the dead for you.

Judgement day is coming.  You will stand before the throne of God.  What is your choice?  Will you appeal to money or to Jesus?  It is an easy choice.  Money or Jesus?  Which has eternal value, treasure on earth, or treasure in heaven?

You all know the answer.  When it comes to “THE BIG QUESTION” you all know the answer.  The answer is Jesus.  Jesus is the one who has given you the robe of His righteousness that covers over all your sins.  Jesus is the one who gives you eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Do you trust money or do you trust Jesus?  You know the answer.  Luke 12:33 (ESV)  33 …. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.[1]

The answer is simple and clear, and yet how easily this clear trust in Christ alone can get obscured by the fog of life.  How easily you can lose sight of the truth of Jesus in your day to day life struggling to deal with all that life throws at you.  Because life is indeed hard and it is full of trouble.  Life is not easy now and it is not going to get easy.

One thing that may contribute to frustration in life is the sense that if you can just get through this current phase of life and on to the next, then life will be easy.

Elementary school students can’t wait to go on to middle school and high school and then everything will be easier.  High school students cannot wait to graduate and go on to college, or trade school, or work, or the military where everything will be simpler.  College students cannot wait to graduate and get to work because things will be easier.  Workers in their careers look forward to retirement when everything will be easier.  But life never really gets easier.  Life is always hard.  Each phase of life has its struggles and in this life you are never going to arrive a station marked “Easy Street”.

            The answer is simple and clear, and yet how easily this clear trust in Christ alone can get obscured by the fog of life.  How easily you can lose sight of the truth of Jesus in your day to day life struggling to deal with all that life throws at you.  Because life is indeed hard and it is full of trouble.  Life is not easy now and it is not going to get easy.

Each day is a struggle to do all the things that you are supposed to and do them well.  In the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day struggles you can lose sight of what is most important.  There is so much stress and anxiety and worry about money and health and children and parents and family and work and school and sports and activities and housing and cars and food and exercise and safety and so many other things.  It is far too easy to find the dark cloud of worry settling down over your life and getting you to start to believe that those things are the most important things in life.

Worry is powerful.  Worry is an amazing example of the mind-body connection.  Worry is essentially a thought that takes on physical manifestations.  Worry begins with that little nagging inkling that moves into a headache, neck ache, grinding teeth, tense shoulders, churning gut, aching stomach.  It can lead to loss of energy, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart disease and so many other things.  Stress is dangerous and Jesus knows the futility of stress.  Luke 12:25 (ESV) 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[2]  Worry and stress actually bring harm.  They can move your focus in the wrong direction.  Jesus is the remedy for stress.

Life is hard.  But as much as the world pushes you to forget the truth, the truth is that you belong to Jesus and Jesus says, Luke 12:32 (ESV)  32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.[3]

Life is difficult and confusing, but remember, you know the answer to life’s greatest question.  You know Jesus is the Way.  You are a baptized child of God.  You are in the Kingdom of God.  You have Jesus’ promise to save you.

Jesus knows that there is a great temptation to trust in money and worry about money because money is a big part of life.  When I do pre-marriage preparation there is an exercise the couple completes to see how each thinks about money.  Do they view money as status, or as security, or as enjoyment, or as control?  I took the survey and came out highest as view money as security.  Money is powerful.  Money is necessary.  Money is a tool of life.  But do not love money.  St Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)  10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. [4]  We hear in explanation of the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13:22 (ESV)  22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.[5]  The deceitfulness of wealth; the lies about money choke out the truth of God.

Loving money…trusting in money is dangerous.  If you find yourself falling into the love and trust of money Jesus provides and antidote in our reading today.  Luke 12:33 (ESV) 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy…[6]

If you are beginning to love money then sell something and give the money away to those in need.  Consistently exercise the gift of generosity to avoid falling in love with money.

This is one of the great benefits of making a regular, sacrificial, gift to the Lord’s work here at Immanuel.  For me, giving ten percent off the top helps to have a healthy view of money.  Giving off the top to the Lord helps keep money in perspective.  Giving money that you will miss helps you realize that money is not the answer to the most important question; money is not the most important thing.

In last week’s reading from Luke Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool in which a man gets caught up in the pursuit of wealth and a life of ease but then suddenly dies.  He thought money was the answer, but he was dead wrong.  In the reading which immediately follows our lesson today Jesus warns about His return for judgment.  Luke 12:40 (ESV)  40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[7]

So stay ready.  The day is coming.  Stay prepared to stand before the judgement seat of God.  Trust in Jesus.  Remember Jesus’ promise to save you and do not let the dark cloud of day to day worries and anxieties obscure the eternal kingdom truth, “Jesus gives you eternal life.”  You know the answer to the question, “What is most important?”  Jesus is most important.  You know the answer to the questions, “How am I saved?  The answer is, “Jesus saves me.”  Don’t worry.  Trust in 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

 

You are awkward and out of step.

nullPentecost 7 2019, Proper 12
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 28, 2019
Gen. 18:20-33, Col 2:6-15, Luke 11:1-13

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

Picture for a moment an old fashioned ball room where everyone is dancing gracefully to the music of the band.  Handsome men in tuxedos lead beautiful women in evening gowns around the floor in an elegant waltz.  It is poetry in motion; everyone is moving together; everyone is in harmony.  There is a smooth, stylish, flow.  But then you notice a new dancer on the floor.  He is wearing shorts and sandals and is dancing to a rhythm that is completely different from the rest of the dancers.  He looks awkward and out of place.  The other dancers start to stare and shoot dirty looks at the out-of-step dancer.  He doesn’t fit in; he doesn’t belong.  One of the couples takes the man aside and tries to help him to get in step with the music and find him proper clothes so that he fits in.

There are the graceful, elegant, stylish folks and there is the awkward, out-of-step dancer.  Which do you want to be?  Would you rather be one of those dancing in harmony or the awkward one dancing to the beat of a different drummer?

Now it may be just a sentimental memory, but it seems like there was a time when being a Christian in this nation felt more like being one of the well-dressed people on the dance floor moving together in rhythm.  Unbelievers were the ones dancing out-of-step to the music.  That is the sentimental memory.  But that is not the current reality.  Things have changed.  Most people in this nation are not church-going Christians.  It is estimated that only 20 percent of the population attends church weekly.  The fastest growing religious group in the United States is the nones.  N-O-N-E-S.  No religious affiliation.

The number of nones is growing and we are daily shown by the mass media how wonderful it is.  How the world moves along just fine with all of its fads and fashions and technologies and everyone is quite happy with themselves, even though they have abandoned the truth of the Gospel.

This week, the United Nations issued its World Happiness Report, and declared that the happiest country in the world is Finland.  Interestingly, it seems that happiness does not have much to do with faith in Christ.  While about 80% of Finns claim to be Christian only about 2% of the population attends church weekly.  They are supposedly happy, but what the world calls happiness is a poor substitute for true peace.  Finland was once a deeply Christian nation made up mostly of Lutherans.  What happened?  The same thing that is happening here in the U.S.  So many have been taken captive Colossians 2:8 (ESV) 8 …by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.[1]  They had the truth of the Gospel and they have given it up for the lies of the world.

            As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You have received Christ Jesus as Lord.  You are rooted in the Lord Jesus.  You are built up in Christ.  You are established in the faith.  You walk in Christ.

As you walk in Christ you move to the rhythm of the Lord Jesus.  You walk and move to the rhythm of things above.

As those around you more and more move to the rhythm of the things of the earth you will find that you are out of step.  You will appear awkward and out of place.  You will find that you don’t fit in with the world.

You won’t fit in because you walk in the truth of God; you walk in the free gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  You seek God’s will in the words of Holy Scripture.  You have God’s law and God’s Gospel.  You have forgiveness, life and salvation given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism and given and shed for you in Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  You have Christ Jesus for you.

But the world does not want Jesus.  The world does not want the true God.  The world does not want God’s law.  The world does not want God’s commands regarding good and evil.  The world does not want God’s sweet Gospel of forgiveness.  The world does not want a crucified and risen Jesus.  The world wants a Jesus that stays out of the way.  The world wants a Jesus that blesses sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  The world runs on lust and greed and selfishness and anger and slander and obscenity and lying.

The world chases after ever new and ancient teachings where they can find their god in nature, in crystals, in meditation, in yoga, in themselves, in some made up religion where there is no hell, and heaven is some kind of endless orgy.

So many churches cannot bear to be out of step with the world and they literally fly the flag to celebrate same-sex immorality.  They celebrate the identical same-sex immorality that brought about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which Abraham prayed to prevent.  The world approves, recommends and encourages casual sexual intimacy; intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage.  The world thinks it quite strange if a couple does not move in together and instead waits until the wedding.  The world says you must not only accept, but celebrate, sexual immorality in so many of its various forms, and if you don’t, you are considered a hateful, judgmental bigot who should be forced to change.  The world wants to force you to dance along to their music and gets angry if you refuse.

Far too many churches are dancing to the world’s rhythm as they preach and teach a theology of prosperity in which they say God’s main purpose is to bless you with health and wealth.  These churches are very popular because they are preaching what people’s itching ears want to hear; not a message of sin and forgiveness, but the message of success.  The message of success fits so well with the rhythm of the world and people can feel at home in a world driven by greed and achievement.

The world promotes strife and anger.  This can infect Christians.  The world encourages division and wrath.  The world wants you to hate those with whom you disagree.  The world wants you to use spiteful, angry words towards them.  The world wants division to tear people apart and see others as the enemy because this stifles the spread of the Good News of Jesus.  When we treat those we disagree with like enemies we lose the opportunity to bring Jesus’ healing to people who are desperately in need.  Everyone needs Jesus but far too often we allow ourselves to fall into the rhythm of the world and instead of bringing the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to people, we bring anger and vile talk.  We want to simmer in our hatred for others, but Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:44 (ESV) 44 … Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…[2]  Pray for those you disagree with.  Pray for opportunities to bring the healing salve of Jesus’ forgiveness to wounded souls around you.

You have been freed from sin.  Jesus canceled your debt.  He nailed it to the cross.  You are free from the guilt and shame of your sin to walk in Christ and bring His love to the world.  In baptism you have died with Christ and you have been raised with Christ.  Put to death earthly things and look to things above.

Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV) 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.[3]

There is great temptation to give up being different and join in moving to the rhythm of the world, but you do not belong to the world, you belong to Christ.  Knowing you are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, walk in Christ to the rhythm of things above.

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

 

Good News on the lips of sinners

nullPentecost 4 2019 Proper 9C
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 7, 2019
Isaiah 66:10-14, Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18, Luke 10:1-20

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

God does not do things the way we expect.  If I had God’s power and His Good News, I would spell it out in the sky.  I would proclaim it on the lips of the angels above.  I would carve it into the mountains.  If I had God’s resources, I would use every supernatural means to proclaim the Good News.  But I am not God, and God has chosen the opposite way to get out the message.  God has chosen to get His message out through the very natural method of human proclamation.

In last Sunday’s Gospel reading you learned that Jesus is the one who, Luke 9:51 (ESV) 51 …set his face to go to Jerusalem.[1]  That means that Jesus determined that He is going to Jerusalem to sacrifice Himself for you on the cross.  When Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem, that is another way of Jesus saying, “I love you.”

As we follow Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, we learn that Jesus allows extra time to minister in the towns and places along the road.  In today’s Gospel we hear, Luke 10:1 (ESV) 1 …the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.[2]  Jesus uses seventy-two sinners to prepare people for His coming.  That’s right!  Jesus sends sinners to proclaim His Good News to the people.  How strange?  Jesus puts His most precious Good News into the mouths of filthy sinners.

Now before you start wondering if maybe I am over-stating the case here, think about who Jesus sends out.  Jesus sends out James and John.  Last week, you learned that James and John want to call down fire from heaven on an unsuspecting Samaritan village just because they don’t want Jesus to pass through their town.  Jesus sends out Peter … you know the one to whom He has to say, “Get behind me, Satan!”  There is doubting Thomas, and, let’s not forget Judas.  Judas … the one who betrays Jesus … the one who hangs himself in despair … that Judas!  Jesus sends Judas out to prepare the way for His arrival.  Each and every one of these disciples fail Jesus multiple times.  These are not the men that I would choose to get out the word if I were God.  But then, I am not God.

In spite of the fact that all of these men are sinners … in spite of the fact that we know Judas is a traitor, Jesus still entrusts His message to them.  He even says, Luke 10:16 (ESV) 16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”[3]  Jesus promises that even though they are sinners, His message will remain intact in their mouths.  People are to pay no attention to the sins of the messengers.  Instead, they are to pay attention to the truth of the message.

What is this precious, holy message?  In today’s Gospel, Jesus says, Luke 10:5 (ESV) 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’[4]  This is no ordinary peace.  This is the peace of God that passes all understanding.  This is the peace that Jesus will soon earn when He finishes His journey to Jerusalem and keeps His appointment with the cross.

Jesus also tells them to heal and preach.  Luke 10:8-9 (ESV) 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’[5]  The Kingdom of God is different from earthly kingdoms.  On earth, we say that someone is a king because he rules a kingdom – the king depends on the kingdom.  When it comes to the Kingdom of God, things are the other way around.  The kingdom is the kingdom because Christ the king rules it – the kingdom depends on the king.  When we say that the kingdom of God has come near to you, we are saying that the king has come near to you.  That king is Jesus Christ Himself.

There are great blessings for the people who receive these messengers from Jesus:  “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  They will receive the blessing that we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.  Thy Kingdom Come.

We sometimes forget that the coming of Jesus means two very different things depending on how He comes.  When Jesus comes near to you, He comes with grace and every blessing.  When Jesus only comes near, He comes in severe judgment.

So far, everything about this mission of the 72 sounds pretty good, but there is also a dark side to this mission.  It begins in the instructions.  Jesus began with a warning, Luke 10:3 (ESV) 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.[6]  As wonderful as God’s peace and His kingdom are, there will be some people who will attack you for it.  There will always be people who reject God’s peace and His kingdom.  There will always be those who hate God’s message and His messengers.

Jesus has stern words of judgment for the people who reject the words of His servants:  Luke 10:10-12 (ESV) 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. [7]

Sodom?  Sodom was the city that God destroyed with fire and brimstone back in Genesis.  Jesus clearly states that those who refuse to listen to God’s Word will suffer a judgment worse than Sodom.

We sometimes forget that the coming of Jesus means two very different things depending on how He comes.  When Jesus comes near to you, He comes with grace and every blessing.  When Jesus only comes near, He comes in severe judgment.

You see, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire world.  When Jesus Christ hung from the cross and shouted, “It is finished,” He meant it is finished for everybody.  Jesus Christ has earned the forgiveness of sins for every man, woman, and child who ever has or ever will live.  Jesus purchased the forgiveness of sins for all people in all places in all times.

This means that you can walk up to anyone in any place and tell them that you know for a fact that Jesus Christ has earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Think of the worst human beings who ever lived.  Jesus earned forgiveness of sins for them.  Nero burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians, but Jesus earned forgiveness for his sins.  Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, whoever you can name, Jesus earned forgiveness for them.  Even Judas Iscariot, Jesus earned forgiveness for him.

Even though Jesus earned forgiveness for these horrible villains, the odds that they with the Lord are extremely low.  The problem lies in those two little words “to you.”  Jesus earned forgiveness for everyone, but some people reject that forgiveness.  It is not the Lord’s fault that anyone suffers forever.  He has brought His kingdom near.  He has earned forgiveness of sins for everyone.  The Holy Spirit offers that forgiveness through the Gospel to everyone.  The only thing the Holy Spirit does not do is jam the Gospel down people’s throats.  Some people resist the Holy Spirit and reject the Gospel.  The Kingdom of God has come near, but not to them.

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the Lord’s Prayer.  When He gets to the second petition, He says this: “Thy kingdom come.  What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself. But we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.  How does God’s Kingdom come?  God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”  We pray in this petition that God’s kindom comes to us.”

Two little words take the Gospel from objective fact to personal reality.  Those two words become the truth “when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word.”  The Holy Spirit’s gift of faith makes the difference.  Without that faith, the life of Jesus is just a collection of the objective facts.  With that faith, the life of Jesus Christ is the way of salvation for me … and you.

Two little words can make such a difference.  Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins can add two words to the objective facts.  Listen to the difference this makes.  Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary for you.  Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate for you.  Jesus died on the cross for you.  Jesus rose from the dead for you.  Jesus ascended into heaven for you.  From thence He will come for you.  Two little words … “for you” … They make all the difference here in time and forever in eternity.  Jesus is for 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

[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

 

Thousands of demons

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Pentecost 2 2019 – Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 23, 2019
Isaiah 65:1-9, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Luke 8:26-39

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

Today’s Gospel demonstrates Jesus’ power over demons.  This is part of the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is God and therefore has power over everything.  In other Gospel lessons we have heard that Jesus has power over sickness, injury, the weather, even death; today we see His power over demons.

Jesus and His disciples cross the Sea of Galilee into an area that is more heavily populated with Gentiles.  No sooner do they set foot on the shore than a demon-possessed man challenges them.  This demon possession is pretty intense.  The man lives among the dead, he wears no clothes, and the locals are unable to restrain him even with chains.

Jesus shows His power over the demons by conversing with them.  Although the demons are the sworn enemies of God, they must answer His questions.  They have no choice.  When Jesus asks “What is your name?” they answer, “Legion”, indicating the strength of the evil forces in this man.  A legion is an army numbering in the thousands.  Thousands of demons against Jesus, but it wouldn’t make a difference if there were a billion, Jesus is Lord over everything and even the demons must obey Him.

When the Lord commands them to leave the man, they have no choice but to leave.  The only question is where to go.  The demons ask to inhabit a nearby herd of pigs, but even for this they need Jesus’ permission.  The demons enter the pigs and the pigs promptly stampede into the lake and drown.  After that we aren’t told what happens to the demons.

The swineherds have a predictable response; they flee.  They flee into a nearby city for help.  When the people hear the news they go out to check on Jesus.  The scene gives us insight into the difference between people who are saved and people who are still slaves of the devil.

The man who is now saved is sitting at Jesus’ feet; he is listening as Jesus teaches.  The round trip to the city probably takes a few hours, so the man who is now free of demons has several hours of Bible class with Jesus.  He cannot get enough of Jesus.  He wants to go along when Jesus returns across the lake.

The people from the city are terrified of Jesus.  They ask Him to leave.  They are polite, but they still see Jesus as a problem … not as a savior.

Jesus complies with the people’s wishes.  He departs, but He leaves a missionary behind.  The man who is now demon free wants to go with Jesus, but Jesus sends him away, saying, Luke 8:39 (ESV) 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.[1]

When Jesus arrives, this man is full of demons and out of control.  When Jesus departs, this man is a missionary to the people on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.

Now whenever the topic of demons comes up, our imaginations tend to go wild.  Our culture has come up with all kinds of speculations about demons and most of them are wrong.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The Bible teaches us that demons were once angels.  God created them sometime during the six days of creation along with all the other angels.  Soon after the creation a group of angels rebelled against God and god condemned these angels to an eternity of punishment.  The Bible tells us that God created hell specifically for these evil angels and refers them as fallen angels, unclean spirits, evil spirits, demons, and so forth.

Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings, that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

The problem with being an enemy of God is that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, unlimited by time and space.  Even though the demons are fallen, they are still God’s creatures and cannot win against God in a direct attack.  They must find some other way to express their hatred of God.  The battlefield they have chosen is the human race … us.

The demons’ main weapon is deception as Jesus says in, John 8:44 (ESV) 44… When [the devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.[2]  It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if the devil appeared to us dressed in red body armor with horns and a pitch fork, and smelled like smoke, but the devil is much more clever.  Demons present temptation in ways that make sense … ways that seem like the right thing to do … ways that have a certain beauty.  As the Apostle Paul writes, 2 Corinthians 11:14 (ESV) 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.[3]

In Eden, the devil uses a serpent to tempt Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit.  Mankind falls to that temptation.  From that time on, every human being inherits a sinful nature at conception as David writes in, Psalm 51:5 (ESV) 5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.[4]  And Paul in Romans 8:7-8 (ESV) 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.[5]

The rite of baptism in the Lutheran Service Book states, “The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.”[6]  Because we humans pass our sinful nature down from generation to generation, slavery to sin and Satan is our natural state.  We are by nature sinful and unclean.  Instead of loving God with all our mind, soul, and strength, we love ourselves.  Every human being by nature is terrified of God, resists him, and fears him.  Our lives apart from God show that we are disobedient.  The prophet Isaiah writes, Isaiah 65:2 (ESV) 2 I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices;[7]

The devil’s control over us at birth may not be as spectacular as the man in today’s Gospel, but we all enter this world at odds with God and slaves to sin.

Since demons deal in deception, they adapt their lies to the culture of any given time and place.  Rationalism has had a profound effect on our culture.  Many today don’t even believe demons exist.

That suits the demons just fine.  It doesn’t bother them one bit if we don’t believe in them.  Demons don’t care if the crime rate goes down.  They don’t care if charitable donations go up.  They don’t care if people give each other a helping hand.  They don’t care there is a cure for every disease.  They don’t care if we are one, great big, happy family, as long as we are one, great big, happy family on the wide road to hell.

The demons don’t even care if there are churches on every corner as long as the churches don’t talk about sin and its punishment, and Jesus and His salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about god as long as that god is not the god who took on human flesh and died for our salvation.  The demons don’t even care if we talk about Jesus as long as that Jesus is just a great example or just a great moral teacher or just a great liberator or just a great unifier.  The only God – the only Jesus that the devil hates is the Jesus who died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and then rose from the dead in order to certify His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

There is only one person who defeated the devil.  That person is Jesus Christ, crucified for the forgiveness of all sins and raised from the dead.  That person and that person alone is the only person who endured every temptation that the devil could throw His way and yet, never sinned.  That person and that person alone endured the forsakenness of hell for us as He died on a cross for our sins and He offers His victory to us.

Demons don’t always identify themselves by driving pigs into a lake.  Sometimes they quietly inhabit people who look like grandmas and grandpas.  They inhabit people who look respectable on the outside and seem very nice.  Just like dangerous strangers tempt children with candy, demons tempt us with all the things we like.  It is their goal to make us feel very comfortable and even righteous while traveling the path to hell.

The real lesson that we can take away from today’s Gospel is that Jesus is the one who exposes demons and deals with them.  The same Jesus Christ who demonstrated His power over demons in today’s Gospel has defeated the devil once and for all on the cross.  Trust in Him.  Trust in His holy life, His innocent suffering and death, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven.  He is the only one who can protect you from the attacks of the devil.  He is the only one who can give you life everlasting.  Trust in Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and pray that the Holy Spirit will work that saving faith in all people.  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] [LSB 268]

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

 

What shall we do?

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Trinity Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Acts 2:14a, 22-36, John 8:48-59

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

You know the feeling; that bowling-ball-size lump in the pit of your stomach that comes when you realize that you have done something terribly wrong.  You got caught up in the moment and went along with the crowd.  Instead of standing up for someone being abused, you stood by and said nothing, or worse you joined in the abuse of someone weaker by those who are stronger.  You went along with the group who was teasing the developmentally disabled boy.  You joined in making fun of the girl who was different.  Going along with the crowd you said something or did something and later you realized how wrong you were.  These can be bowling-ball-in-the-gut memories from childhood…but worse are these memories from your teens and adulthood where mistakes are bigger and the results are more permanent.  You were careless driving and caused an accident in which someone is hurt.  You made a big mistake at work and cost the company huge money; you cheated on your taxes,; you did things when you were drunk that you should never have done; you got your girlfriend pregnant; you cheated on your husband; you aborted your baby; your marriage fell apart.  You got caught up in the moment and fell into sin, and afterwards, as you come to realize what you have done, big, ugly bowling-ball-size regret starts to sink into your gut.  And you ask yourself, “What do I do?”

In our second lesson today the people of Jerusalem are feeling these same kinds of feelings; regret over what they have done.  Fifty-seven days earlier Jesus of Nazareth rides into the city on Sunday morning in Triumph.  The crowd waves palm branches and shouts, “Hosanna in the highest.”  On Friday morning the crowds shout again, but this time they cry out for Jesus’ blood.  In response to the cries Jesus is beaten and whipped and crowned with thorns before being led out to Calvary to be crucified.

The people to whom Peter is preaching were witness to this; some perhaps, caught up in the moment, joined in with the bloodthirsty mob’s call to, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  At minimum they did nothing and just stood by and watched it happen, maybe thinking, “He deserves to die since He is pretending to be God.  He is a fraud!”

And it would seem that that Friday was pretty much proof that this Jesus who claimed to be something special was just another nobody from Nazareth.  Christ?  What kind of Christ would let Himself die in such utter naked humiliation and suffering?  Now He is dead and buried and that’s that.  Done deal.  Another faker who got what He deserved.  Friday revealed Jesus was just a nobody.  But then came Sunday morning.  Jesus rose from the dead.  The guarded tomb is empty; the body is gone.  The guards say they fell asleep, but everyone knows that cannot be true because those guards would have been executed.  And there are reports all over the city that Jesus appeared to people in the flesh.

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

So this Jesus who said He would rise from the dead, actually rose from the dead, which means that He is who He said He is.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  The assembled crowd listening to Peter are the people of Jerusalem that crucified the Son of God.  They must have a haunting feeling of guilt growing in their gut as each asks, “What have I done?”

It is to these people that Peter is preaching the first sermon about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Peter does not mince words in his proclamation, Acts 2:36 (ESV) 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”[1]  The people’s guilt is laid upon them.  Peter doesn’t tell them it is okay, you didn’t mean it, don’t worry about it.  No, Peter gives it to them full strength.  Peter tells the people that they crucified Jesus who is Lord and Christ.

Acts 2:37 (ESV)  37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”[2]

What shall we do?  That is the big question.  What shall we do?  We walk around with a heavy knot of guilt sitting in our gut; knowing we have done wrong, what shall we do?

The answer to that question is quite different depending on who you ask.  I have sinned against God, what do I do?

The Jews in Jerusalem that day and many people of various backgrounds would say that you need to try harder.  Try harder so that your good deeds will outweigh your evil deeds at the judgement.

Eastern religions would tell you that the consequences of this guilt and sin will take many generations to purge from your family.  But little by little you can strive to make amends for the evil with acts of love, or meditation, or simple suffering, and finally there could be escape from it.

Today’s man on the street may tell you that just need to do your best, live your best life, and just get over your destructive sense of guilt.

The people in Jerusalem weighed down by the guilt of crucifying Jesus ask…  People today who know they are sinners ask…  We who carry the guilt of sins past and present ask…  “What shall we do?”

Peter gives the answer, Acts 2:38 (ESV) 38 …“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3]  The answer is not something you can do; you can do nothing.  The answer is, something can be done for you.

The Word of God has already cut these people to the heart.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit they know their sin and are sorry for their sin.  The Law of God has worked on these people.  They are aware of their terrible dilemma, but they do not know how to fix it.  Peter tells them.  Be baptized, every one of you.  The solution to sin does not come from within you, the solution to sin comes from outside; from the Triune God.  Christianity is not a religion of “Do”; you’ve got to do this or that.  It is a religion of “Done”; it has been done for you.

Acts 2:39 (ESV) 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”[4]

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Triune God has chosen you, claimed you; anointed you.  Jesus’ death and resurrection have become your death and resurrection.  You were given the gift of the Holy Spirit and your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit.  In your struggle with sin you have been set free.  Your sin is covered.  Your guilt has been removed.  Jesus took your bowling-ball-sized lump of guilt and carried it to the cross.  Jesus solves unsolvable guilt.  Jesus forgives those who crucify Him and Jesus forgives you.  Connected to the Triune God you have forgiveness of sins and where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.  So, daily repent and remember you are baptized.

Peter’s message to the people on that Pentecost long ago is counter intuitive; it is counter cultural.  It is not “do it yourself” salvation.  It is “done for you” salvation.  It is pure gift given to you in your baptism, and in God’s Word, and in the Body and Blood of Christ.  You are accompanied on life’s journey by a community of persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who together are the one and only living God.  When you wake up in the morning remember your baptism by making the sign of the cross, remember what God has done for you.

As you began Christian life at the font, we begin worship in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We invoke the Trinity at least six times in our worship service.  This is the faith into which you are baptized; the same faith the 3,000 were baptized into that Pentecost when Peter preaches.

Today, as you come forward to the communion rail I invite you to remember your baptism by dipping your fingers into the font and making the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Remember you are baptized.  Your sin is covered.  You belong to God.  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

 

What is the major miracle of Pentecost?

nullPentecost 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 9, 2019
Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, John 14:23-31

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 matter how often we read the Bible … no matter how familiar we are with its message, it always has something new to teach us.  The account of Pentecost is like that.

One of the things that many people may not know is that, although this Pentecost in Acts 2 is very special, it is not the first Pentecost.  The Lord instituted Pentecost about the same time He instituted Passover.  Pentecost was originally called the Feast of Weeks.  Since the Feast of Weeks comes fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, people began calling it Pentecost based on the Greek word for fifty.

Pentecost is also one of the three feast days that required the presentation of the males of Israel.  The Law of Moses said, Deuteronomy 16:16 (ESV) 16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.[1]

Now, if we lay these Festivals over the life of Christ, we can see God’s plan.  At the Feast of Booths Jesus predicts the coming of the Holy Spirit as we hear in John 7:37-39 (ESV) 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [2]

We also learn that Jesus dies on Passover, and He rises from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, the Sunday after Passover.  Then, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in a special way fifty days later, at Pentecost.  Faithful Israelites are in Jerusalem on those special days.  This means that the faithful who present themselves in Jerusalem according to the instructions given in the Law are witnesses to Jesus promising the Spirit, witnesses to the crucifixion and resurrection, and also witnesses to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  In this way, the Holy Spirit gathers His Old Testament Church together to hear about the mighty works of God.  God, the master strategist, had this all worked out 1500 years before it happened.

I always think about Pentecost being the wonderful first bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in the wind, fire and tongues, but this is not the first giving of the Holy Spirit.  That happened 50 days earlier.  John 20:19-23 (ESV) 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” [3]

Did you hear it?  Jesus already gave the Holy Spirit on the day of the Resurrection.  He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Makes you wonder, if Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit on the day of the resurrection, why did the Holy Spirit have to come again on Pentecost?  Didn’t Jesus get it right the first time?

We can get so distracted by the wow factor of the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other tongues, that we don’t notice the major miracle of Pentecost.  This miracle shows up in the response of those who gathered on that day.  They came together.  They heard the mighty works of God.  Then they responded.  Acts 2:37-41 (ESV) 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

In His explanation to the third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote that the “Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”  The Holy Spirit’s manifestation on Pentecost is an example of that.  1500 years earlier, the Holy Spirit worked through His servant Moses to establish feasts that would gather these witnesses from the Old Testament Church in Jerusalem so that Luke the Evangelist could write,  Acts 2:5 (ESV) 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.[4]  It was not an accident that these men were in Jerusalem on this day.  The Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament Church to tell them that the long-awaited Messiah has come in the person of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is getting ready to convert the faithful of the Old Testament Church into the faithful of the New Testament Church.

That is the reason for the supernatural signs described in today’s reading.  The Holy Spirit is gathering His church together so that they can hear the call of the Gospel.  As the people of the Old Testament church draw near to the house, they encounter people who tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for their salvation.  These people are not speaking in the lofty Hebrew of the temple, they don’t speak in the street language of Aramaic, or the commercial language of Greek, or even the legal language of Latin, but each one hears the story of salvation in his own native language.

This is the great miracle of Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit adds three thousand souls to His church on that day.  Pentecost is not so much about the Holy Spirit poured out on the Apostles; it is about the Holy Spirit poured out on those three thousand souls.

All these amazing things are the Holy Spirit’s means to accomplish the goal of gathering together His Old Testament Church and telling her that her waiting is over … that the New Testament had begun.  The Pentecost Pilgrims and other righteous people who gather together on that day have been looking forward to the Messiah.  They keep the ceremonial law of circumcision and sacrifices and all the other customs as a reminder that one day the Messiah will come and fulfill all the law and offer Himself up as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.  Their faith looks into the future to the Messiah who is to come.  Now the Holy Spirit gathers the church together to tell her that the Messiah has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one.  On this one particular Pentecost the Holy Spirit calls together the Old Testament church and transforms her into the New Testament church.

Amid all the amazing things that happen on that Pentecost, it is easy to confuse God’s goal with the means that He uses to accomplish that goal.  After all, this is exciting stuff … a sound like a mighty wind … the appearance of what looks like flames of fire … the sudden ability to speak and understand a foreign language.  It is easy to get distracted by all these things and forget the main goal … the goal of creating faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  This is the goal of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost long ago, and it is still His goal today.

Amid the signs and wonders of that special Pentecost, there are still those who resist.  There are men in the crowd who mock and say, Acts 2:13 (ESV) 13 …“They are filled with new wine.” [5]  In any crowd there will always be those who resist the call of the Gospel.

This can be a great comfort to us as we confess our faith to the people we meet in our lives.  Sometimes, they will be interested and want to know more.  Other times they will reject our confession.  When that rejection comes, we can take comfort in knowing that even when there was the sound like a mighty rushing wind, the divided tongues as of fire, and the apostles speaking in other languages, that there were some people who resisted their message.  We should expect that and continue to confess our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

On the day after that special Pentecost, there was no sound of a mighty wind.  The tongues of fire had gone away.  People spoke simply in their own language.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was still at work.  The story goes on after today’s Second Reading and says, Acts 2:47 (ESV) 47 … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.[6]  God’s Church still has His Word and the Holy Spirit continues to work through that Word.

The Holy Spirit still today works through the Word of God.  It has always been that way and it will always be that way.  The true sign of the Holy Spirit at work is the proclamation of God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit points to Jesus who is the God-Man who saves us from our sin with His suffering and death on the cross and promises us life everlasting with His resurrection.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word when we hear it with our ears … when we read it with our eyes … when we experience that Word in the water of Holy Baptism … and when we receive it with the true body and blood of Jesus in the Bread and Wine of the Lord’s Supper.  The Holy Spirit is at work when we confess our faith before each other and when we confess our faith before those who do not know Jesus.

The Holy Spirit still calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith.  As He gives each of us new birth into the Holy Christian church so He also calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies that whole Christian Church on earth and keeps her in the one, true faith.  In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day, He will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.  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

 

Jesus’ Plan to Save the World

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SERMON AUDIO

Ascension Day (Observed) 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 2, 2019
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

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

It is all right here.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

     who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

     born of the virgin Mary,

     suffered under Pontius Pilate,

     was crucified, died and was buried.

     He descended into hell.

     The third day He rose again from the dead.

     He ascended into heaven

     and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

     From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes Jesus’ earthly life in seven lines.  We remember it each year beginning on March 24 with the annunciation.  The Angel Gabriel tells Mary she is going to give birth to a son.  Then to December 25, Christmas Day, when we celebrate God in flesh being born in the city of David, Bethlehem.  Then we fast forward 30 some years when in the Spring we remember Jesus’ suffering and death and celebrate His resurrection from the dead.  And that brings us to today; or more precisely, to this past Thursday, Ascension Day, 40 days after Resurrection Sunday.

Jesus leads the disciples out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.  Luke 24:46-49 (ESV) 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [1]

Jesus is leaving, but He has a plan for the Church.  What is this divine strategy?  Jesus is leaving these eleven men on the Mount of Olives as witnesses.

This is Jesus’ plan.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses of His life, death and resurrection.  He is leaving the disciples as witnesses to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.  Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; Immanuel; God with us; God in flesh, is departing and the task of spreading the Good News of the forgiveness of sins is left with this rough group of disciples who 43 days ago mostly abandoned Jesus at the cross.  These are Jesus’ witnesses.  This is Jesus’ plan to save the world.

When I was in college I worked summers for an international construction and export company.  Our task at that time was to assemble and crate air handling systems to be shipped to an air force base in Egypt.  There was a big warehouse filled with so many different components that had to be found and assembled and secured and inspected and then enclosed in huge, heavy duty shipping crates.  It was a very small company with five employees and the task seemed insurmountable.  As I expressed my sense of being overwhelmed by the job my boss asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?”  I replied, “I have no idea.”  He said, “One bite at a time.”

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

There are eleven scared and lonely men on the Mount of Olives staring up into the sky.  They have been given the task of telling the whole world about Jesus.  How do they do it?  They take the first step of the journey and keep going one step at a time.

And Jesus does not leave them alone, ten days later, on Pentecost, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit and the disciples are filled with the Spirit and are able to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to people from many tribes and languages gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival.  The disciples take the first step on the journey.

Have you ever gotten a project from the boss or a teacher and when you hear what they want you to do you are just overwhelmed, but then you accomplish it; one step at a time.  How do walk 1,000 miles?  Take the first step and keep going, one step at a time.

That same journey continues today, one step at a time.  That same plan is still in place today.  The disciples have all died; all but one were killed for preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins.  Only John is thought to have died a natural death.

Now the mantle has been passed on through the generations and now it has been passed to us.  You and I are now the witnesses to bring the Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus to the world.  This is an overwhelming proposition and you may ask yourself, “What can I do?  I am just one person.  It can seem like we are so small and the task is so large.  How do you eat an elephant?  How do you walk 1,000 miles?

Jesus told a couple of reassuring parables about the growth of the Kingdom of God.  Luke 13:18-21 (ESV) 18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” [2]

The eleven disciples are like that mustard seed that has now grown into a tree; like that bit of leaven that has now worked its way through the whole world.  Small beginnings are not a problem.  You are now like that mustard seed and that bit of leaven.

It can be hard to be a witness for Jesus.  You can feel unprepared and have doubts.  “Who am I to try to tell people about Jesus?  I am not good enough for that.  I am not educated enough about the Bible.  I am not clever enough with my words.  How can I make any difference?  I am not going to be able to change the world.  People get offended by Jesus; I don’t want to be offensive.  Maybe it is better to let someone else handle that.”

We are still living with Jesus’ plan of spreading the Good News through witnesses.  You are a witness.  You know the truth about Jesus; He is the Son of God; He died on the cross for your sins; He rose from the dead for you.  You know the truth and you are a witness of the truth.  You can proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  It will likely not be anything grandiose like Peter on Pentecost, or Billy Graham preaching to a stadium, but rather little by little.  Little by little, one step at a time.  One conversation with a fellow student or coworkers or friend or family member.  One invitation to bring someone to church.  One moment of showing Christian love.  One time of being prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.  One day of contemplation of pursuing a vocation of church work.  One day of volunteering.  One donation to a missionary or a seminary student.  One gift to the ministry here for the church and school to reach out with the Good News of Jesus; planting seeds for the future even when we don’t necessarily get to see the seeds grow.  Little by little, one day at a time, one step at a time, the Kingdom of God grows by the power of the Holy Spirit through your witness.

Be aware that you will encounter opposition; don’t let that stop you, for it is nothing new for witnesses.  People reject the idea that Jesus rose from the dead, because that does not make sense.  Indeed, that is correct, it does not make sense and yet God is not restrained by what makes sense.  There is a lot about God that does not make sense, which does makes sense, because it means that we did not make up God.

Live your whole life as a witness to Jesus so that repentance and forgiveness is not just something you talk about, but it is how you live.

Do not use your witness as an aggressive weapon or as a show of self-righteousness, instead always witness to others in order to help them;.

Always witness about Jesus.  I think we can make a mistake of trying to talk about the church and Christianity and we end up talking about almost everything else except repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus.  Be a witness who speaks about Jesus dying and rising for the forgiveness of sins.

You are more than capable of being a witness.  The first disciples were not highly educated; wonderfully refined guys.  They were a motley bunch of fishermen and tax collectors and such.  And remember the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well.  She had been married and divorced five times and was shacked up with a man in a state of adultery.  What kind of social standing do you think she had in her town?  What choice names did the “good” people have for her?  And yet she became a witness to Christ, and John 4:39 (ESV)  39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, …[3]  Certainly you can, and should, spend a lifetime studying scripture, but you already know all that you need to know to be a witness for Jesus.

Jesus has ascended into heaven.  He has left you to be a witness, but he has not left you alone; He has not left you with nothing to hold onto.  Each Sunday Jesus comes to you in His Word of forgiveness.  Each Sunday you hold the Body of Christ in your hand and you eat His Body and drink His blood.  He comes to you in a physical means to strengthen you.  And like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, you have received the Holy Spirit.  You are not a witness under your own power, but under the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are a witness to Jesus’ love and forgiveness; in your words, in your deeds, in your daily interactions, in your forgiveness of others.  Because you know the truth.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

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

 

Spoiler Alert!!

nullEaster 6 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 26, 2019
Acts 16:9-15, Rev. 21:9-14, 21-27, John 16:23-33

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

There is a super hero movie that recently came out, not sure if you have heard anything about it, Avengers end of the game or something.  The ending is really exciting and surprising.  There is a big car chase and then the Batmobile loses its wheel and the Joker gets away.  Or something like that.  I actually have not seen the movie, but I heard that it was a really big deal that people not give away the ending.  People wanted to see the movie for themselves and not have the ending spoiled for them.

When reading books or watching movies it makes it more exciting to not know how the story will end; it keeps up the dramatic tension of not knowing what is going to happen.  In a fictional story we like that dramatic tension.

Now, almost always in movies and books, the mystery gets solved, the guy gets the girl, the good guy wins.  In fictional stories we know in the back of our mind that almost always good will triumph over evil in the end.

In real life it is not so clear.  In real life dramatic tension is not fun.  In life we want to know what will happen, but so often we are in the dark.  A loved one is sick…will they get better?  The economy takes a downturn…will I keep my job?  My health is failing…will I be able to stay in my home?  My child is struggling…will they be okay?

We want to know how things will turn out; but so often there is no way to know.  We tell each other, “It’s going to be okay.”  But we don’t know if that is true or not.  Life is often patient endurance through very difficult times.  In the midst of the difficulties we don’t know where life is going.

In day-to-day life we don’t know what will happen next, but in our reading today from Revelation we find out what is going to happen in the end.  We find out that on the last day the Holy City of New Jerusalem will come down from heaven with its glorious, jeweled radiance, its pearl gates and golden streets.  On the last day you will be in the number of the saints marching into the Holy City where there is no temple because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are the temple.  There is no sun or moon for the glory of God is the light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  This is how it ends; or more precisely, this is the beginning of eternity.  This is where you will be on the last day.  The Holy City of New Jerusalem is your eternal home; you and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

This morning we got to witness little Tessa Avaline Morgan be baptized into God’s family and have her name written in the Lamb’s book of life.  This morning God made a promise to Tessa that she is forgiven and she belongs to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In the waters of baptism Tessa is marked and sealed as a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Tessa has a place in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.  God has made a promise to Tessa Avaline and God will not change His promise.

God made a promise to you in your baptism.  You are marked and sealed as a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You have a place in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.  In baptism you were buried with Christ.  In baptism you were raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.  God’s promise to you is rock solid.  Your foundation is not built on sand, but on the solid rock of Jesus.  God’s promise is certain and secure because it is not contingent upon you doing something; it is pure gift.  You are marked and sealed to live your eternal life with Christ on the golden streets in the Holy City of New Jerusalem.

Baptism is indeed God’s promise to you and it is pure gift.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (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]  Baptism is God’s secure promise to you, but it is not a license to sin as the devil would like you to think.  Being baptized does not mean you can let your guard down.  Stay connected to Jesus and stay alert.  The world is spiritually dangerous.  The cares of life and the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out faith like weeds choke out a garden.  The devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  It is possible to fall away from faith.  It is the devil’s goal for you to do just that.  The devil wants you to fall away and forget about God’s promise to you.

It is possible to fall away, but even then God is waiting for you to come home.  His promise to you has not changed.  He is waiting with open arms like the Father of the Prodigal Son to restore you to your place as His child with an eternal inheritance.  You cannot fall so far away that God will not joyfully welcome you back.  We vacillate and change; God does not change.

God’s promise does not change and Jesus will triumph in the end, so do not fall for the devil’s lies.  He is the Father of lies and loves to make use of the His first lie, “Did God really say?”  Do not despair at the devil’s accusations that your sin is too great.  He is right.  You are a sinner who does not deserve God’s grace and yet God gives you his grace freely on behalf of Jesus.  Renounce the devil and cling to the cross of Christ.  Cling to the promises God made to you in your baptism.

Baptism is God’s promise to you of eternal life, but it no guarantee of an easy life.  As Jesus tells us in the Gospel lesson from John, “John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [2]  Real life is hard.  Each day is a struggle, but you do indeed know how it all will end.  Good will triumph over evil.  Jesus has overcome the world.  The day is coming when Jesus will reign on His throne and Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire.  The day is coming, but for now life is difficult.  Life as a Christian can make it seem even more difficult as you find yourself swimming against the currents of society.  Everybody is doing something and you try to resist.  It can feel like you are in a battle against so much evil in the world and it can wear you out.  You struggle against evil around you, and evil within you.  But you know that in the midst of the battle the war is already won.  As we sing in the beloved hymn, For all the Saints, “And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.”  We do know the ending, but instead of that spoiling things for us, it gives us hope and makes us stronger.  It enables us to continue in faith through the difficulties of life.

It is possible to fall away, but even then God is waiting for you to come home.  His promise to you has not changed.  He is waiting with open arms like the Father of the Prodigal Son to restore you to your place as His child with an eternal inheritance.  You cannot fall so far away that God will not joyfully welcome you back.  We vacillate and change; God does not change.

There are days in the midst of the struggle when it can seem like God has forsaken you; that He has left you all alone.  But remember His promises.  Remember you are baptized.  Remember you know the end of the story.  Jesus knows that life will be hard.  And you know that despite any current appearances to the contrary, Jesus wins in the end and you will win with Him.  You have read the last chapter.  You have seen the spoiler.  You know what will happen.  Good triumphs over evil.  Jesus brings words of great comfort.  John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [3]

In Christ you will overcome the world, and live forever in the Holy City.  That is God’s promise 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

 

The Devil wants you alone.

nullEaster 4 2019 Confirmation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 12, 2019
Acts 20:17-35, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

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 teach students and engaged couples about how men should live out St. Paul’s instructions for husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the church, I use this example.  A husband and wife are out for a walk around the neighborhood and suddenly an angry, barking dog pushes open a fence gate and runs towards the two of you.  What should the husband do?  A good husband steps between his wife and the angry dog.  A good husband is willing to get bitten to protect his wife.  A good husband is willing to lay down his life for his wife and children.

We know this because husbands get their model of leadership from Jesus who is the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life for the sheep.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, steps between you and the wolf and protects you from the wolf.  The Good Shepherd is willing to get bitten to shield you.  The Good Shepherd is willing to die to defend you.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, so you are safe in his flock.

There are many who are not yet in the flock of the Good Shepherd, but you are in His flock.  Our catechism students this morning will confirm what was spoken for them at their baptisms, that they are indeed followers of Jesus; that they are, indeed, sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus says about His sheep, John 10:27-30 (ESV) 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”[1]

You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Jesus is protecting you, but the devil does not give up easily.  The devil wants to lure you away from being in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  The devil wants to separate you from the flock so you are unprotected, and then he can attack you and devour you and get you to join him in the darkness of evil without you even noticing what he is doing.  The devil is incomprehensibly evil.

I experience evil thoughts and desires, and yet even as someone who is by nature sinful and unclean I am shocked at how evil people can be.  I find it hard to comprehend the level of evil I see in the news; terrorism,  school shootings, human trafficking, adultery, drug dealers, drug dealers who cut their drugs with fentanyl, adults abusing children in unspeakable ways, uncontrolled anger tearing apart relationships, and so much more.  We are truly blessed that we have our military and police and emergency workers to shield us from so much of this evil so we do not have a front row seat.

There is such evil in the world and the devil is the prince of darkness.  You would think it would be easy to ignore the devil and disregard his lies, but he is very clever and can be very appealing in his deceptions.  He will not appear to you in red pajamas and ask you to choose evil over good, instead he will subtly make evil seem so very attractive.  And because of all his clever techniques and lures I think we have a hard time understanding how truly evil the devil is.  You are a sheep in God’s hand.  The devil wants you to be separated from God for eternity.

            You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  You are safe in the hand of God.  Stay in the flock.  Stay in the hand of God.  Stay behind the Good Shepherd who is protecting you from the wolf.  Remain connected to God’s Word of forgiveness and the Body and Blood of Christ.

Stay on guard each day so you do not give the devil a foothold in your life.  Each day struggle against sin, repent of sin, and turn back to God’s will.  Battle sin in your thoughts and desires before sin invades your words and actions and moves to become your master.  As we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[2]  Hate what the devil wants to do to you.

You know what the devil hates.  The devil hates Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV) 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”[3]

The devil hates this passage because it is a preview of his defeat and he hears about all the sheep of the Good Shepherd safely gathered around His throne for eternity.  You are part of this great multitude.  You are a follower of Jesus.  Do not let the devil change that.  Do not let the devil take you from the Kingdom of Light back to the Kingdom of Darkness.

The devil hates a baptism or confirmation because it is a deliberate rejection of the him.  Today our young people will stand before the congregation and renounce the devil, and all of the devil’s works, and all of the devil’s ways.  They will reject Satan, and swear faithfulness to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are wearing white robes that foreshadow their coming time in the eternal Heavenly City of New Jerusalem, waving palm branches and praising the Lamb on the throne.  These young people are right now in the hand of God; they are in the flock of the Good Shepherd; they are safe from the devil.  But the devil does not give up easily.

St. Peter warns in 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.[4]  Be aware of the devil’s presence and persistence.  Stay on guard.  Stay behind the shepherd.  Stay under the shepherd’s protection.

The devil will try to lure you out from behind the shepherd and get you to voluntarily leave the flock and be your own independent sheep.  He will do this quietly and carefully.  He will get you to give up coming to worship services and hearing the Law of God and the Gospel of God.  He will get you to give up receiving the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  The devil will get you to choose to be so busy that Jesus and the forgiveness of sins moves down your list of priorities in life as you slowly slip away from the flock.  The devil will try to get you to find an excuse to miss church that works for you, so he can separate you from the rest of the sheep, and once you are away from flock the devil will mold and shape your thinking with his lies, and the lies of the world, and the lies of your own sinful flesh, until he has you fully in his grasp.

Beware of the devil’s schemes.  Be careful in the transitional times of life.  Going off to college.  Moving to a new area.  Getting a new job with new hours.  Retirement.  The death of a spouse.  Be aware of the transitional times and stay in the flock of the Good Shepherd.

Be on guard against anger.  As we read in Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)  26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.[5]  The devil will try to get you to hold onto anger against the pastor, or someone in the church, or someone in your family anything in order to get you to stop attending worship.

The devil will try to get you to establish sin as part of your lifestyle so that it becomes your norm and you stop coming to church because you know that how you are living is against God’s will.  The devil has many schemes and methods to lure you away from the protection of the shepherd so he can attack you when you are alone and vulnerable.

And the danger is not just from outside the church.  Be aware and be discerning of where you attend worship.  Be careful of who is preaching and teaching.  Because Jesus warns in Matthew 7:15 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.[6]  Paul warns the Ephesian pastors in our lesson from Acts 20:28-30 (ESV) 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.[7]

There are wolves disguised as sheep attacking Jesus’ Church from within.  There are those who teach that God’s promise to you is a life of success and prosperity.  There are those who repeat the devil’s first lie, “Did God really say?” when it comes to intimacy and marriage and abortion and even salvation.  Did God really say that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman?  Did God really say that sexual intimacy is only for within the bond of marriage?  Did God really say that you shouldn’t sacrifice your unborn children?  Did God really say that Jesus is the only way to the Father?  Did God really say you are not saved by being good enough but only by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross?  Did God really say that Hell is real and there are those who choose to be condemned?  Did God really say that?  Yes.  God really did say, and you need to be on guard against the increasing pressure to conform your thinking to the way of the world rather than being transformed by the Word of God.

Today our confirmands, Breanna, Joey and Jack are going to promise to continue steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.  Understanding this commitment, knowing the cost, knowing it is not an easy path, I ask you all to make this pledge together with them.  Renew your promise and work together and pray together and love each other and bear each other’s burdens and bury one another until that great day when we will be together again in white robes before the throne of the Lamb.  You are a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus stands between you and the wolf.  Stay behind Jesus.  Stay in the flock.  You belong 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

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

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