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Reformation Day 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 31, 2021
Rev. 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

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 time of year there are lots of scary thing used to decorate; skeletons and ghosts and witches and spiders.   For some, Halloween has become a time to try to make your house as scary as possible. But, for some, October 31 is scary for different reasons. 

            October 31, the eve of All Saint’s Day, All Hallows Eve, is an important date for Lutherans because this is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany in protest of the selling of indulgences.

            For many people, what Luther did was pretty scary and not because he was dressed up as a zombie or something.  Luther just wanted folks to know that you are saved by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for you and not by anything that you buy or do.  Jesus died and rose for you and gives you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in baptism, in the Word of God and in Holy Communion.

            For so many, this Good News is terrifying.  Many churches are afraid of the Gospel.  They believe it is dangerous to let people know that they are saved by grace alone and not by what they do.  How are you going to motivate people to do what you want them to do?  How are you going to coerce people to give money to support the church?  How are you going to control the people?  They will just go wild. 

            Without the Good News of the free gift of forgiveness you can tell people that they will be saved if they give enough money; if they volunteer enough, if they pay the proper respect to the leaders, if they are good enough.  And if you are not good enough or do enough or give enough there are penalties you need to pay in order to make up for your shortfall.  They are afraid of the Gospel because they fear losing control. 

            Some churches are afraid of the Good News that Jesus died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of your sins, because if Jesus forgives sin it means that there really is sin and it means that Jesus really is Lord; really is God in flesh.  This is frightening because it means that Jesus has authority.  It means that Jesus is in charge and you are not.  It means you cannot erase the parts of the Bible you do not like. 

It scares people to know that Jesus truly is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him because that means that religions that deny that Jesus is the exclusive way, truth and life are false religions.  It is frightening because it means Jesus is God and not just a nice teacher or a wise philosopher that you can ignore if you choose.  These Churches really want to keep Jesus at arm’s length; keep Him at a safe distance so He does not have any real effect on you.  They are afraid of the Gospel because they fear losing control. 

            For individuals, the Gospel can be quite terrifying.  The Good News that Jesus paid the price for your sins on the cruel cross of Calvary means that God really does take sin seriously; God takes your sin seriously.  It means that you really are a sinner and you really need Jesus. The Gospel is scary because it means that you are not good enough on your own.  You are dependent on Jesus. 

            This is hard, disturbing news to take in.  You need a savior because you are a sinner and the wages of sin are death and Hell.  As much as you may try to pretend that everything is okay, you know truth about yourself.  Jesus also knows the truth about you.  Jesus knows all your sins and failings – even your secret sins.  You can, at times, pretend that you are good enough, that you do enough, that you give enough.  Or you might rationalize that you are not perfect but you are so much better than a lot of those other people.  You can pretend and rationalize, but God’s law breaks through any self-righteousness with the hard truth.  If you say you have no sin you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you. The Gospel can be frightening because you fear losing control. 

            But you know the truth.  You know trying to be good enough is not working.  Trying to do enough is not working.  Trying to give enough is not working.  In the darkness of your despair over sin and failure, the Good News of Jesus’ forgiveness breaks through with the light of Christ. 

            Jesus comes for sinners — sinners like you.  Jesus comes to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you are marked with the blood of the Lamb.  You belong to Christ.  John 8:36 (ESV) 36 … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

Your sins are forgiven by Jesus.  Out of His great love for you God the Father sent His Son to be the sacrifice — to be the propitiation by His blood.  Jesus makes God view you as holy.  By drinking the cup of God’s wrath to its bitter dregs, Jesus appeases God’s anger at your sin and through His cleansing forgiveness changes God’s attitude toward you from anger to love.  You are saved by grace.  You receive what you do not deserve.  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.”  In baptism Jesus makes you a part of Himself.  You are a member of Jesus.  You are a part of the Body of Christ. 

            The Gospel is pure gift and this can be daunting for adults.  Little children can receive a gift freely without any sense that they need give a gift in return.  Adults receiving a gift so often feel an obligation to make things even.

            But with God, there is no way to make things even. You are forgiven by God out of His love. You cannot pay Him back.  God’s love is out of your control.  God’s love is messy.  God’s love and freedom in Christ does not come with a clear cut set of rules.  Freedom in Christ is messy.  God’s love is messy, but it is a wonderful mess.  God loves sinners like you and me.  God loves sinners so much He sent Jesus to pay for sin and you cannot repay God.  Like a helpless child you just receive God’s love.  Give up trying to make things even with God and instead bask in God’s love and forgiveness and allow this love and forgiveness to so permeate your life that love and forgiveness flow out from you to others. 

            The Good News of God is disturbing to so many because of all the implications of personal helplessness and God’s authority.  But the Good News is not scary.  The Good News is Good News.  The Good News that Jesus has died for you is the precious medicine of God’s love for you.

            Live in Christ.  Live in His forgiveness.  Live in His love.  Live in His Church.  In love, do what you have been given to do.  God has prepared good works for you to do.  Ephesians 2:8–10 (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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

            God has works for you to do, however, good works do not precede salvation; they follow.  Good works do not earn forgiveness, rather good works flow out of God’s love and forgiveness for you.  Works done to earn salvation are not good works because the motivation is wrong.

            The Good News of God is disturbing to so many because of all the implications of personal helplessness and God’s authority.  But the Good News is not scary.  The Good News is Good News.  The Good News that Jesus has died for you is the precious medicine of God’s love for you.

            Attempting to begin a discussion about the sale of indulgences, Martin Luther unexpectedly started a reformation.  He brought back the Gospel which was being lost as church leaders obscured it in order to better control people and raise money.  Luther renewed the Bible’s teaching that you are not in control.  God is in control.  God is God and you are not. 

            Even though it frightens many, we delight in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing to fear.  You know the pure truth of God.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the price for your sins and gain for you eternal life.  You are justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  It is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Amen. 

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