square peg

Pentecost 3, 2017 Proper 7
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 25, 2017
Psalm 91:1-10, Jeremiah 20:7-13, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:5, 21-33

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

When I was young we used to have this red and yellow plastic game called Perfection in which you would try to get 25 various shaped pieces into the correctly shaped holes in a depressed game board before the timer buzzed and the game board would spring up ejecting all the pieces destroying all the work you had done.  The goal was to get every piece in the right spot and turn off the timer before it buzzed.  It was a lot of frustrating fun to try to get all the right pieces into the right holes.

Life often feels like trying to get the right pieces into the right holes before time is up and it can be very frustrating and not much fun.  One thing so many of us do is to try to fit Jesus’ cross shaped piece into the square hole of our lives.

We so much want to try to force Jesus to conform to the shape of our lives; to force His will and desires to adapt to our will and our desires.  But there is a big problem.  Jesus doesn’t fit into your life.  You are by nature sinful and unclean and Jesus is, by nature of being God in flesh, holy and righteous.  You cannot fit Jesus into your life.  His cross shaped block won’t fit into a square hole.  But the square block of your life will fit into the cross-shaped space of Jesus.

As a baptized child of God you are brought into Jesus.  You are clothed in Christ.  You put on Christ.  You die to sin and rise to new life.  As we learn from Romans 6:5-7 (ESV) 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.[1]

In baptism your old self is crucified with Christ.  But the old self, the old sinful self, does not like this one bit.  I am a natural born sinner.  I naturally love sin.  I want to sin.  You are a natural born sinner.  You naturally love to sin.  You want to sin.  But you no longer belong to sin; you belong to Christ.  Your life is in Christ and you are called to struggle to conform your life to Christ.  You are a square peg in the cross-shape of Jesus’ life and you live life to conform to Christ.

You are by nature sinful and unclean and Jesus is, by nature of being God in flesh, holy and righteous.  You cannot fit Jesus into your life.

Sadly, too many people want to conform Christ to themselves.  They want to take the cross shape of Christ and cut it down to size to conform to their own will and their own desires.  They want to cut off Jesus’ teachings about love.  They want to cut off Jesus’ teachings about sin.  They want to cut off Jesus’ teachings about salvation.  They want to cut off Jesus’ teachings about Him taking up the cross and you taking up the cross.

You live in a culture full of people hell bent on cutting Jesus down to size to fit their will and desires.  They break off this piece of Jesus and that piece of Jesus until their Jesus just resembles them.  The world hates the real Jesus, but it may tolerate a spineless, moldable Jesus who teaches whatever they tell him to teach.  People want to transform Jesus’ teaching that we must love one another into a teaching that says it is evil to talk about sin.  Loving your neighbor is very hard, especially when you have to warn someone that they are on the wrong path. The world wants to teach that there is no wrong path.  But Jesus is clear, Matthew 7:13 (ESV) 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.[2]

There is a great temptation to trim off Jesus’ teachings about how sexual intimacy belongs only within the marriage union of a man and a woman.  Matthew 19:4-6 (ESV)
4 [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”[3]  We desperately want to adjust Jesus’ teachings so that they fit into our desires, our practice, our lifestyle.  This is such an active battlefront in the world in which we live as the cultural elites try to demand and coerce conformity to their ever-evolving sexual ideas.  It is also an active battlefront in your life as you live as a natural-born sinner in a society with great depravity lurking just beneath the surface.  It seems that everyone is teaching you to do what you want to do and forget about God’s will.  There is an almost irresistible urge to make Jesus’ teachings conform to your own desires.

We urgently want to adjust Jesus’ teaching where He says, “John 14:6 (ESV) 6 …“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[4]  We want to believe there are many ways to the father.  We want salvation to be about how we can “be good enough” to merit forgiveness and eternal life.  We want to be able to cut Jesus out of the equation and make the cross unnecessary.  Recently a U.S. Senator stated that someone who believes that Jesus is the only way to salvation “is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.”  And that someone believing that Jesus is the only way is unfit to serve in the U.S. Government.  There is great pressure to try to conform Jesus’ teachings to our own desires.

We want to forget about Jesus’ teaching about Him going to the cross and us having to take up our cross and follow Him.  We would much rather go to church and hear about how we can be successful.  We want to hear about living the victorious life not about a life as a servant to our neighbor.  We want to hear how Jesus makes life simpler and easier, not about taking up our cross and following Jesus.

We so very much want to cut the cross of Jesus down to conform to the shape of our lives, but that is not how it works.  Your life is lost in Christ.  In baptism you have died to sin.  Romans 6:12 (ESV) 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.[5]

Living in the cross-shaped, cruciform way of Christ will make you many enemies.  Confessing Jesus as Lord will get you hated.  They hated Jesus, they will hate you too.  Now, you never want to self-righteously seek out the hatred of others by being obnoxious or hateful towards them, but you also should not be surprised when hatred comes just because you confess Jesus as Lord.  In school, at the university, at work, at family gatherings you can be made to be a laughingstock because you are trying to conform your life to Christ rather than conform Christ to your life.  And persecution can get much worse than scorn and humiliation as we see around the world.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer not only ridicule, but marginalization, abuse, torture and even execution for confessing Jesus as Lord.  It is estimated that 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016.  Matthew 5:10 ESV  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Christians going to their deaths because they will not deny Jesus are living out Jesus instructions in Matthew 10:28 (ESV) 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[6]

The worst that communists and radical Islamists and radical Hindus and radical secularists and organized criminals and drug cartels can do to you is to kill you.  Do not fear them; they can only kill the body.  Fear God who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Now it is easy to say, “Do not fear.”  I cannot imagine my emotions if I were the one facing a gun to my head or a knife to my throat that would be removed if only I would renounce Jesus.

I pray that indeed the Holy Spirit would give me the words to say and I could confess Jesus, and fear, love and trust God despite that I am very much afraid.

Life as a Christian is a struggle; a continuing, difficult struggle against sin, and a struggle to live a cruciform life in a world that hates Jesus.  It is difficult, but you live out your cross-shaped life knowing God cares for you.  Jesus gave His life for your life.  Jesus bled and died to save you.  You are baptized into Christ.  You are fed with the body and blood of Jesus.  You belong to God for eternity.  God the Father knows more about you than you know about yourself.  He knows how many hairs are on your head.  The Father cares about each little bird, how much more then does He care about you?

Confess Jesus as Lord.  Confess God, Father; Son and Holy Spirit.  Live out your cross-shaped life in love and service to others knowing you have already been made perfect in Jesus; knowing you are loved and redeemed by the Lord Jesus.

Too often in life we waste a lot of time playing a game of perfection by trying to get all the right pieces in the right places before time runs out.  You will never get all the pieces in the right places in life, but the most important game of perfection is already finished.  You have been made perfect in Christ.  You have been baptized into Christ.  Your life is in Christ and in Christ you have His perfection.  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


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