Heavily Armored – A Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20

August 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the epistle lesson, where Paul starts wrapping up his letter by encouraging the Ephesians.

But the first question should be, pastor, what gives? Last week you were telling us that God doesn’t relate to us by power, and this week we’ve got all sorts of power based things. We’ve got armor, including a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, and a helmet. And also a sword. A sword, pastor. And to top it all off, the words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

But then again, look at where God is giving these gifts, and what they are. Last week the question is how to we interact with God? How do we interact with our spouse? How do we interact with people for whom Christ died? None of those take power. We don’t relate to people that way. But people aren’t the only ones we have to deal with. And they’re not the ones Paul is talking about here. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

If the battle were against other people, it would be difficult enough. But Satan and his angels are real. And they are far more powerful, far more cunning, and far more experienced than we are. They are more than happy to overcome you, whether you’ve got power or not. Because they don’t care. Whatever it takes, that’s fair game. Your biggest weakness, they know it. They know it better than you do. And will attack it unmercilessly. All in order to get you to go wherever Christ is not.

Of course, if you want to fight, Satan is willing to fight you head on. And put on the ground without much effort on his part. If you want to out think him, he’s willing to play that game. Sandbagging you until you’re trapped by your own strategies. If you want circle around and catch him from behind, that’s not a problem for him either. He’s got plenty of decoys. Plenty of Old Adams he can use against you. Even your own.

And that’s the worst of it. Those Old Adams, in you, in everyone else, they’re resilient. They’re brutal. They will hurt you. They will kill you. And no matter how many you knock down, they seem to keep getting back on their feet. Because the real enemy isn’t these decoys. It isn’t flesh and blood. The real enemy is Satan. The accuser. Who stands to accuse you of your sin. To proclaim that you are not worthy of heaven. To bar the way to eternal life. To convince you, through sheer repetition, that his accusations, his proclamations, his actions are just and true. How then can we possibly stand in the face of Satan? He is too strong. Too powerful. Too much. So the one place we’re finally allowed to relate by power, and it turns out that we don’t have enough power.

And yet, what does God tell us through Paul? He says, you be strong. You put on the armor. You stand up against the plots of the devil. You wrestle. You take up the fight. You withstand the evil day. You stand firm. You take your stand against Satan.

Um. I. I hate to break it to you, Paul. But I’m pretty sure you didn’t get that one right. Because Jesus is supposed to take that stand. Jesus is supposed to fight that battle. Jesus is supposed to win that victory. Because me? I can’t. I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. That Old Adam is still in me. And even if he weren’t, I’m no match for the ruler of darkness. I’m just not.

Just how exactly am I supposed to, as the text says, “wrestle against the rules, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil? And we’re right, we’d be fools to try that alone. But did we forget just whose armor Paul reminds us to put on?

And the pieces of God’s armor aren’t just metaphors. These things protect us better than the most tempered steel. When Satan attacks us with his lies, he asks us to believe that God doesn’t care for us. Because if God did care, life wouldn’t be this hard. Tragedies wouldn’t exist. Our loved ones would never die. But the truth is that God cares enough to do something about it. Sent Jesus to endure it along side us. To mourn with us. To die with us. Die for us. He died, and was buried.

And then, the truth was seen by eye-witnesses. The very Jesus who promised to rise from the dead on the third day, rose from the dead on the third day. And therefore there is no tragedy too great, no death too tough, nothing too much for Jesus to overcome. That is the truth. That is who Jesus is. And that truth is the belt that holds the whole armor of God together.

When Satan accuses us. Reminds us that we too have sinned. That we should have known who was being hurt. That we must answer for what we have done. He’s trying to convince us that God, in His holiness, couldn’t possibly want anything to with us anymore. That’s when God gives us Christ’s righteousness. Because we have no righteousness of our own. And any we dream up for ourselves is merely an illusion. But Christ’s righteousness is real. And it has been given to us. So that when Satan accuses, we say, yes, it’s all true. But Jesus has stood in our place, so that now we stand in His. And that righteousness is now your breastplace, so that Satan cannot strike your heart with his attacks.

When Satan threatens you with what is going on in the world. Whether it be by public humiliation in our society, or by taking your very life in other places around the world. Whether by angry opponents, or by foreign armies. Whether by lawsuit or demonic power, the goal is to cower you into a corner concerning the Gospel.

But the Gospel itself makes you ready to face these horrors. The death and resurrection of Jesus means that there’s nothing the world can do to you that Jesus can’t give back. Though they take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse, though life be wrenched away. They cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever. Because our home, our family, our very lives, are what Jesus restores from death itself in His resurrection. And so the Gospel of peace makes us ready. It is the shoes for our feet as we walk from here and face Satan head on.

But Satan still attacks. He attacks with those fiery darts. Using even Jesus’ own words against you. Do you not know that all the armor in the world is useless? After all, out of your own heart comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. They defile you. So what good does the armor do to protect you from things outside, when it’s the things inside you should be worried about?

And yet God has put faith inside of you. That’s why God baptizes us. To drown that Old Adam on the inside. And to bring to life a new creation in you. To bring to life the body of Christ inside you. Your faith isn’t just in Jesus. Your faith is Jesus in you. And on that last day, when you are raised from the dead, it isn’t the Old Adam that will rise. We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, we too would have a new life. That new life, that faith in you, that body of Christ, it’s all the same. And it is your shield for extinguishing Satan’s carefully aimed projectiles.

Satan, though, still attacks. Would you expect any less? He’ll try and get in your head. Ask why we’re so sure God would save us. Why are we worth it? Look inside yourself. Is there anything worth saving in there from God’s perspective? Where’s the logic in that? What sense could that possibly make? How can you ever really be sure?

But your salvation has already happened. There is no more question. Because Jesus died and rose for you. Jesus forgave all your sin. Jesus marked you with His baptism. Jesus fed you His own body and His own blood. There is no mistake. Salvation is yours. And that salvation is as sure as our God. It is His promise to you. And so God gives you that salvation, free from doubt. As a helmet to keep Satan out of your head with his twisted logic and misdirections.

We do not have a relationship with God on the basis of power. We do not relate to other people for whom Jesus died on the basis of power. But Satan and his crew? We engage them in power. We engage the sinful world. We engage the powers of darkness. We engage death itself with that power. With the one thing that has more power than anything else. The Word of God. The same Word that declared all things into existence. The same Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s that same Word Who has already defeated the devil by means of the cross.

This is why Paul can say, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This is your job. This is part of what being a Christian is. You are not powerless in the face of Satan. Because by your side is Jesus Christ. He is your belt. He is your breastplate. He is your shoes. He is your shield. He is your helmet. He is your sword. You have with you the body of Christ. And you yourself are part of the body of Christ. And this fight is exactly where He has given you His power. Not against flesh and blood. But against Satan himself. Against sin, death and the devil. Stand strong in Christ. For He is your strength. And the victory has already been won. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Power Made Perfect in Submission – A Sermon on Ephesians 5:22-33

August 22, 2015 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text today is the Epistle lesson, where Paul has his infamous line, wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. And let me tell you, the responses by women to that verse isn’t really all that positive. Sure, some have resignedly said, “well, that’s what’s written, so alright.” Others have said, “Yeah, not doing that one.” But whatever the reaction, there aren’t that many who have said, “Oh good! I was hoping God would say that.” Now, why is that?

Come on, pastor, it’s pretty obvious. Submission is a surrender of any power one might have had. And you can’t get by in this world without some kind of power. Whether that be the power of persuasion, the power of resources, or the power of force. Apparently Paul doesn’t want wives to have power. Apparently, Paul wants wives to be helpless and totally dependent on their husbands to rule over them.

But hasn’t it been this way from the beginning? Paul quotes Genesis 1. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to His wife, and the two shall become one flesh. We can go there too. At the fall, Eve has her power taken away, right? God says to her, “Your desire shall be against your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Therefore, to paraphrase Paul, man shall have power over woman just as God has power over man. Uncomfortable yet? Hasn’t God always been about power? Here are my Ten Commandments, follow them or else. Here are my regulations, do these or you’re no longer my people. Isn’t that how the people of Israel understood them? God forbids in the second commandment the misuse of His name. And so they stopped using his name altogether. God was no longer Yahweh, the one who is. He was Adonai. Lord. Master. The one who has power over us.

Isn’t that how we understand God today too? Isn’t power how we relate to God as well? Though maybe Less at a master-servant level, but more at a “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine level.” Don’t we ask, “What do you want me to do, God?” With the expectation that if we do it, things are going to work out. Don’t we bargain with God in our prayers? Don’t we want to know what that one thing is that we can do that will get God on our side? Because then we will have the power. Maybe by proxy, but that’s good enough. But no matter if it’s over us or with us, it’s still a relationship rooted in power.

And if that’s how God relates to us, then is it any wonder that’s how we relate to one another? By asking who has power, and who doesn’t? Because now everything is about power. Being nice is a power. Having friends is a power. Helping others is a power. A humble attitude is a power. Because honey is more attractive than vinegar. But when you really need vinegar to get the job done, it works too.

Is this the way God set it up? Is this how relationships work? Is this how God relates to us? If so, then there’s a problem. A very big problem. Because God is more than powerful, He’s supposed to be all powerful. God is more than just king, he’s supposed to be ruler of all things. God will isn’t just a random want, it’s supposed to be an inescapable reality. But if that were true, why does sin even exist?

I’m serious. We know God hates sin. That it’s against His will. So if God relates to us primarily by power, then He cannot be all powerful. Because who would ever have the power to rebel? Who would ever have the power to say no to God? The existence of Satan makes no sense. The existence of sin makes no sense. Unless God’s either not as powerful, or not as good as we say He is.

But what if God doesn’t relate to us by power? What if God never intended to interact with us on the level of power? What if God intended to leave out all the “what can you do for me, and what can I do for you?” What if God never intended for us to be in a master-servant relationship with Him? What if Jesus became man not because of our sin, but despite it? What kind of relationship would that be?

God relates to us by love. And love alone. Not by power. Love accepts the risk that the beloved has the freedom to not love in return. Accepts the risk that Adam and Eve, and all humanity can refuse to love God in return. But even then, the love continues. Adam and Eve chose to relate to God by power, by trying to make themselves equal to God. And as a result, God was honest with the consequences. “Your desire shall be against your husband, but he shall rule over you.” but even before that, was the promise. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Jesus was coming. But not in power. Rather power is made perfect in weakness.

In the wilderness, before giving the commandments, when the Israelites were trying to use the power of their mutual discontent, God responded not in power, but in love. In the morning, manna from heaven for them to eat. In the evening, quail. The Ten Commandments were given, because they still insisted on relating to God by power. But it was not a power for power exchange. It was always a foreshadow of what God would endure for them through Christ. It was always, always pointing towards a relationship of love, and away from a relationship of power. Because power is made perfect in weakness.

Jesus criticizes the Pharisees in today’s Gospel lesson, because they were still relating to God by way of power. Jesus quotes Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Trying to keep rules in order to make God happy, curry God’s favor, instead of realizing that God already loved them. And God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

We bristle today at Paul’s words, “wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Because we too want to relate to God by means of power. We want to relate to each other by means of power. Never once taking to heart the promise God has made from the very beginning. His power is made perfect in weakness. And we see how right in today’s text. It’s not power, it’s love. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.

Jesus didn’t save us by exhibiting His great power. Jesus saved us through His death. The ultimate weakness. The ultimate inability. The ultimate love. Jesus on that cross surrendered all His power, because He loves you. And He accomplished more that submission than all the power in the universe could ever do. That is what power is made perfect in weakness means. Because it isn’t the power of pity. It isn’t the power of victimhood. It isn’t the power of peaceful resistance. It’s not any power whatsoever. The power of God is perfect, when it isn’t power at all.

It’s for this purpose God created marriage. He created it before we desired power. And that is why Paul says what He does about it. Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church. Because in that relationship, not of power, but of love, is a picture of how God loves us. How Christ and His Church works. It is power is made perfect in weakness, And by it more is accomplished than by any power you could ever have. By it, families are made strong. Communities are built to stand. Civilizations thrive.

But there’s something even more important than that. Because Paul continues, ““Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” You are the Church. You are of one body with Christ. The body handed over to be on that cross, the same body on that altar, handed over to you, the same body gathered in this place, handed over to each other. It’s all the same body. And that body has been washed. Made clean. You have had your sin taken away. You are forgiven. Not by your power. Not even by God’s power. But by God’s weakness. By God’s submission. And that forgiveness has been given to you over and over again.

Today, Gary is baptized. Cleansed by the washing of water and the word. Sanctified. Made holy. Not by power, but by love. God’s love. Because God continually gives us our faith, again, and again. He feeds our faith by that love. Feeding us His body, given unto death for you. Feeding us His blood, shed for your forgiveness. We submit to God in these things, not because of His great power. But because of His great love. Which gives these great gifts for our good. And they are good because He first submitted Himself on our behalf. Gave Himself up for us. And by that, overcame the power of sin, death and the devil. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Made perfect in submission. Made perfect at the cross. And by that weakness, by that submission, by that cross, we are saved. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

On Being a Strongly Introverted Pastor – Just Some Random Thoughts

August 22, 2015 Comments off

How do I know that God called me to be a pastor? Well, I’ve been telling Him that I haven’t been cut out for it for 22 years. I have been telling Him that every day for the last eleven. And yet, here I am, called to serve a congregation. And told by some people that I do a great job at it.

And yet, I don’t believe them. Yes, I have been called. But no, I still do not believe that I am cut out for it.

You see, I am strongly introverted.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like people. That I don’t like to have conversations. That I’m not outgoing and pleasant to be around. I do all those things. But all those things come at a price. A heavy, heavy price. You see, for most people, being around others gives them more energy to feed off of. In my case, they feed off of mine. It takes a great deal of energy to be social. And if I give too much, or if too much is taken, I start shutting down.

I can feel it happen. My eyes stop focusing quite as well. Voices are harder to pay attention to. I’ve lived with it long enough to keep faking it for quite a while after this starts. But once it does, I become useless to everyone for the rest of the day. I can no longer think straight. I can no longer be of help. And I can no longer sleep. (Neither can my wife, the twitching keeps her up).

This has been one of those issues that I have both known about forever, and have just now realized a great many things. I knew, when I was 17 years old, and prayed to God, “Please don’t send me into the ministry. I can’t deal with people.” But a couple of years later, I decided that putting up with people was worth it, for the right payoff. You see, I loved video games. Enough to get a job at the downtown mall’s video game store. Where I would have to deal with people all the time.

At the time, I figured that with practice, dealing with people would get easier. And to some extent, that was true. I learned to smile when I talked. To engage people I didn’t know. To listen to what people wanted. Stuff you could find in Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, only I never had read the book. Probably my manager did. And while I got better at engaging people, I still came home from work shut down and empty nearly every day.

After three years, my introverted side caught up with me, and I quit to write a book. Only then I didn’t have the self discipline to do it. In six months, I wrote three pages, ran out of savings, and went back to reapply for my old job. I got it. The break was nice though. And I felt great. For about three days. Then the shutting down and emptiness returned.

But I had to have a job, right? Only this one would never take me anywhere. I knew I couldn’t be a manager, I wouldn’t have been able to take it. But the prospects of a high school graduate with only retail experience weren’t going to get a job much better elsewhere either. I decided to go back to school, get a degree, and do something.

But school and work together, even both at part time, were too much. And having met my wife at school as well, there were now three things taxing my energy. And something had to give. I ended up quitting the job with no notice, so worn down, and so empty, that there wasn’t any other way to do it. It took four months to get another job, at the college, in the copy center, where it was just me and the machines, for the most part.

I have to say, that was one of my favorite part time jobs. I could work at my own pace, without being interrupted, as long as I got my work done. I did that job well. And I didn’t feel so useless at the end of the day. I could often be alone with my thoughts. And while sometimes, that could be scary, it was always worse to not be alone.

I had also chosen the right field. My degree got me at the end of a press stacking paper alone. Not a glorious position, by any means, but plenty of time with just me. It should have been just right. Especially for my severe introversion.

It wasn’t. After the first few weeks, there wasn’t anything for my mind to do. There were no new projects. No new things to think about. Nothing interesting at all. I ended up with a very different problem than shutting down. Anxiety. To the point where I was taken to the hospital in fear that I was having heart problems. Anxious about what? Anxious that I had made a huge mistake in careers, but now I had a wife to support.

That’s when I started arguing every day with God about being cut out for the ministry. You see, at this point, I had found that theology was incredibly interesting. Something my mind craved to dig into. Still does, actually. And I wanted to do that all day, every day, for as long as I could. But I also couldn’t be a career student. I had to support my family. And there was only one job where I could do both. Unfortunately, it also meant that my severe introversion would come back up again.

Undergrad was a bit frustrating, but seminary was great. I enjoyed it so much, that I graduated with a 3.5 GPA, with 3 kids, while suffering from severe sleep apnea. (Another story, which, at one time, I had hoped was the answer to my shutting down. CPAP helped, but it didn’t solve it.) But I wasn’t much for social events. I was friendly. I got to know some people. I counted (and still count) everyone in my class as a friend. But none of them would you ever call close friends. And that wasn’t their fault.

But then I got my call. Well, eventually. The class of 2010 had to wait a while. But then it was time to be social again. I had to. That’s the job. Within a year, I was diagnosed with depression. A year after that, sleep apnea. Medication and therapy helped some, but not enough. Actual sleep helped some too, but mostly with overcoming the depression. The shutting down, the emptiness, the coming home unable to do anything continued.

My wife would ask me what I could do to get rest. Movies didn’t help, Video games didn’t help. getting out of the house didn’t help. Having work projects to distract me didn’t help. Vacation didn’t help. Sunday afternoons were the worst. Even after a great service. Days where the seniors visited with me, I could count the rest of my afternoons as shot, because I wasn’t worth a damn. Even calling the shut ins was a task too much to bear. And I would go to God angry, and tell Him, “I told you so. I can’t do this. I can’t take this.”

And inevitably He’d say in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” Often enough that I now have a love-hate relationship with that verse. God might be right, but I don’t have to like it.

It was just recently I figured out how this severe introversion works. And I’ll probably have some other epiphany about it sometime else, but now, some things are starting to make some sense. You see, I just got back from a Continuing Ed class the seminary put on. And even though I was with people nearly all the time, I came back feeling really refreshed. My wife had been asking for years how to get me some rest, and all along it was study. It was thinking about intricate concepts, and finding out how they work together. Social time was part of it, to be sure, but there was also a lot of time I could be alone, digesting all this theology. I hadn’t felt that good in 15 years. With sleep, having previously had therapy, now with time alone, and something to dig into, I felt ready to tackle anything.

Sunday went great. Monday I took off. Tuesday, I worked all morning, at it was productive. The seniors missed that day, and I was ready to tackle the afternoon. But I had a meeting, with a very extroverted person. Who very much wanted to help. And find answers for “why pastor isn’t doing so good.” It was a truly noble gesture. But inevitably the answers were all, “go be with people.” Which, you know, is what a pastor is supposed to do. Tuesday afternoon was social. Wednesday, the seniors were back. Wonderful! But more social. That evening, a community event. More social. Thursday morning, someone comes in to talk. More social. Thursday afternoon, Another person comes in, then another. More and more social. The last leaves a self help book. One of the oldest one. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

At 3:00 Thursday afternoon, all that energy I had gotten from the conference was gone. And once again I was shut down, empty, useless, and angry with God. I searched the internet for what was wrong with me. Came across introversion, and remembered, oh yeah, I’m an introvert. A severe introvert.

Looking back, all my life, I have been trying to push myself into learning how to be less introverted. It doesn’t work that way.

Sure, I learned how to be socially polite and engaging. But that breaking point has remained unchanged over the last 20 years of trying. Where one is on the introversion-extroversion scale doesn’t change through exercise, like muscles or body fat do. It doesn’t “get better” with practice. That’s what I realized today.

It is what it is. My thorn in the flesh. My weakness. And Jesus isn’t going to take it away. And yet, here I am. Pastor.

The only thing I know to try now, is to work with it instead of against it. I need to be measured with how much social time I do. Measured with how much time I study to counteract the loss. Because social time for me is a loss. That will not change. But my loss is someone else’s gain. And I want them to have that gain. However, I just can’t go to the point of shutting down any longer. Because then it helps no one. Not the people I visit, not my church, and especially not my wife and children.

Where are those lines? I don’t know yet. You would think after 20 years of dealing with this, I might have an idea. Nope. But if it has a chance of ending this shutting down, ending this emptiness inside, I want to try it. Because I can tell you, just reading the table of contents of Carnegie’s book, I can tell you the answer’s not in there. Only things in there remind me of the pain of the past. And I would like to move on from there. Move towards something that might work for me. Because I sure would like to come home and have something left to give to the people I love the most. The ones God has called me to be someone even greater than a pastor to. Called me to be a father, and a husband.

God, I hope this works.

Living in the Wrong Habitat – A Sermon on Ephesians 5:3-21

August 15, 2015 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text today is the epistle lesson, where Paul has a very serious warning. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

For because of these things? What things are those? It’s not just the empty words which might deceive. The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience for more than that. What might help is if we had the context of the previous verses. Starting at verse three instead of verse six, we read: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you… Or maybe better said, “This is not your identity. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, that is, using your wit to harm, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God… because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Oh. No wonder they left it out. I mean, yeah, those things are bad and all. But come on. Those things are everywhere. You can’t exist in this world without running into them. Advertising, entertainment, commerce, education. What are we supposed to do? It’s not like we can just stop being in the world. Besides, those are problems for them out there, not us in here. Except these problems are ours too. We laugh when others are torn down. We covet what is for sale out there. We bring the filthiness and impurity into our own home, whether by book, or radio wave, or television signal or internet connection. We deal with sexual immorality everywhere. Even from our own children.

Does it even matter to struggle against it? Do you really thing we can change the world out there? Because it hasn’t changed since the fall of man. There’s a reason habit and habitat have the same root word. Sexual immorality has a location. Impurity has a location. Covetousness has a location. Idolatry has a location. And it’s right in the middle of where we live. It’s in our cities, it’s in our towns. It’s in our homes. And we too pick up those habits. We teach them to our children. And then wonder why we all live by them. It’s these things which have told us who we are. And we believe them.

We’re not the first people who have lived like this. And, unless Jesus comes back in our lifetimes, we wont be the last. The Ephesians Paul writes to lived in the exact same habitat we do. Because you need to sell your crops? In that day you went down to the orgies in the bathhouse to find a buyer. You need to buy food? You went down to the pagan temple to get the sacrificed meat. You want entertainment? The theater is where you could find any sin you wanted on display for everyone to see. There wasn’t anywhere you could go, there wasn’t anything you could do without running headlong into the very things Paul forbids here in Ephesians. Do not become partners with them. Literally do not associate with them. To borrow the language from the earlier verses, do not identify with them. Because they take …part in the unfruitful works of darkness… For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

And you know what? That’s exactly what the Christians in Ephesus did. And the Christians in Corinth. And the Christians in Athens. And the Christians in Rome. For the first three centuries. They did not take part in the temples, the theaters, the markets, or any of the public life. Because if they did, how would they be able to stop that sinful habitat from giving them the sinful habits it took to survive there?

How could they do that? How could they just abandon the world like that? I mean, was that even right? And yet the people of Ephesus understood something about forgiveness that we don’t. Because the Greek word for forgiveness is αφιημι. Literally to release, or let go. And we get a very important part of it. Jesus releases us from the eternal consequences of our sin. And that is a great joy. But for them, it’s specific. Jesus released them from the bath house. Jesus let them go from the theater. Jesus forgave them from the temple. When sin is taken away, it’s literally taken away. You don’t get to  do those things anymore. The forgiveness of sins is a sacrifice. And a costly one at that.

Is that moralism instead of the Gospel? Or is it exactly what Paul says today when he says, “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

But Paul doesn’t leave it there. If he had, then it would have been just another moralistic law to follow. But no. He continues, “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus knows where you live. Jesus knows what you have to go through. Jesus knows what you must endure. Jesus knows your sin. And that you have not always walked the way you were supposed to. Jesus knows that you are dead in your trespasses. Jesus knows the extent of your sexual immorality. The extent of your impurity. The extent of your covetousness and idolatry. And yet Christ shines on you.

Christ Jesus shines where your darkness is. He shines where you have fallen. He shines even inside your lightless graves. Because that is why Jesus went to the cross. To shine where you are. To shine where the darkness is the deepest. To shine in that habitat that has no light of its own. Jesus died and was buried in order to shine at your death. And say to you, O sleeper, arise from the dead.

Because in going to the cross, Jesus changed your habitat. Jesus changed where you live. Because it’s no longer in the world. You live in Him. You are part of His body. Part of His church. The same church Paul writes to nearly two thousand years ago. The same church that ate manna in the wilderness. It’s the same Church today as well. It’s the habitat of the Church where we are filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. And so we are together with the Church of all times. Past, present and future.

Though, perhaps there is one thing they might not understand. This new habitat that Jesus has put us in is His body, right? We together here today are living in the body of Christ. And yet that church in Ephesus. That church in the first centuries after Christ. They would ask one more serious question of us. And it’s not how we’re doing out there against the world. It’s not how well have we succeeded on a moral level. It’s not even if we’ve managed to get our own homes in order. They would be very confused as to why our altar is empty every other Sunday. They would not understand how we could be the body of Christ without the body of Christ.

Because the body on the cross, the body on the altar, and the body gathered as members today are the same body. And that body is the Christian’s habitat. We have a habitat, a location where God is found. Found more intimately than anywhere else in existence. He isn’t best found in our feelings. He isn’t best found in our emotions. He isn’t even best found in our hearts. Jesus is found in the flesh here at this place. On this altar, and all the others where the Lord’s Supper is rightly administered. The Supper isn’t merely a phone call with God. It’s God Himself! There is no way to get any closer to God than this.

That’s why the four Gospels have always been the most important books in the Bible. Because those books are the narrative of the body of Christ found in all three ways. Cross, altar and Church. It’s they that tell us about this new habitat in which we now live. Jesus even speaks about in today’s Gospel lesson. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, has his habitat in me, and I in him. And this habitat, this body changes the habits we once had before. And the ones hanging on still.

Granted, the old Adam in us will still long for the sinful habits, and sinful habitats of this world. We will still fall into them. We will still fall short. We will always be in need of Christ’s forgiveness. But we know where that forgiveness is found. And maybe it does help to think of that forgiveness like the ancient church did. The sexual immorality so easily found has been taken away from you. The world’s covetous nature has been let go on your behalf. The idolatry of this world’s false gods has been removed. None of these are options for the new creation in you. Because you have a place. You have home. You have a habitat. And it is the body of Christ. For Christ indeed shines on you. Death itself has already been overcome. And forgiveness is yours. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

The Old Adam Must Die – A Sermon on Ephesians 4:17-5:2

August 9, 2015 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the epistle lesson, where Paul says, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Those are strong words from Paul. So strong, in fact, that non-Christians would find them offensive. Because basically, he’s saying that anyone who doesn’t follow Jesus is incapable of understanding anything, and can’t do a single thing right. And you know what? That’s going to make a lot of people shake their heads. It doesn’t sounds any different than the rhetoric you hear from politicians. This side does this, so they’re terrible at everything. That side does that, so we wonder if they’re even human. And as long as politics goes this route, we’ll never get anywhere.

I thought Christianity was supposed to be different than that. I thought we were the ones with the reasonable God. The ones with the loving God. The ones whose God makes us different than everyone else. But how does Paul say we’re different? Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor… Be angry and do not sin… Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion… Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.

Tell me. Who in the world is against any of those things? Can you find a single person who would say that even some of those things are bad? I dare say, you can find more people who don’t ice cream and cookies than would speak against the good things found in this list of Paul’s. Because these are all things that Muslims proclaim. These are things that Hindus proclaim. These are all things Atheists proclaim. Mormons, Pagans, Cultists in a secluded commune in eastern Idaho.

There are very few people in this world who could honestly say they didn’t believe in the goodness of at least some of those commands. And yet, Paul uses this list to tell the Ephesians that this is how they put on Christ? And that those who don’t believe in Christ, yet still uphold these same principles are incapable of understanding anything, and can’t do a single thing right? Really? Just what is it that makes us different from everyone else? What is it that makes our walk different from all the other Gentiles?

The difference is Jesus. Because while everyone else in the world looks at this God given Law and says, “Yes, we can do this.” We look at this and say, “My Lord has already done this for me.” And that changes everything. For you see, our sinful self, in the futility of its mind, believes we are actually good at heart. In the darkened mind of the sinful self, we think that we can please God. In the sinful self’s alienation from God, we believe that we’ve walked into God’s very presence to cheers. In the sinful self’s ignorance, we believe we have shown God our great wisdom. And the sinful self’s hard-heartedness has convinced us that we have done well enough to stand before God on our own two feet. That is the state of our Old Adam. And every person on earth has one inside.

Although in you, that Old Adam might be willing to compromise. Because, as Paul says, “That is not the way you learned Christ!” And you know? That’s true. Just look at that cross. It’s just the right shape to be used as a crutch. You put one beam under your arm. Hold on to the top. And Jesus can help you bear the weight that was too much for you alone. With His help, you can finally do all those things. With His help you can finally put away falsehood. With His help, you can actually have anger without sin. With His help you can at last speak well to your neighbor and put away malice. Jesus is your strength. But you can do it! You can be good! And wont God be proud of you.

But the Old Adam is still the Old Adam. He still believes the serpent’s lie. That we can be like God. Deciding who is good and who is evil. That we don’t need Jesus as much as we need ourselves. That the only person I can ever truly trust is me. There cannot be any compromise with the Old Adam. The cross has only ever had one purpose. There is only one thing those sticks of wood could ever be intended for. And it isn’t to help you struggle through unto your own victory. The cross is there only to kill.

And so when the cross comes into your lives, it isn’t there to make our success brighter. It isn’t there to make our victory sweeter. It isn’t there to give us an appreciation for all the good things we have. It isn’t there to give us the tools to make it on our own. The cross is there to put us to death. For indeed the dead cannot help themselves. And that is the whole point. For death is the only way you can ever get rid of yourself. Or, as Paul puts it, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.”

The Old Adam must die. And with him must die the ways of this world in you. All the things you were taught about how this world works. All those life lessons you learned the hard way. Everything you know about getting by, surviving in this world. It all must die.

That is precisely why Jesus became man. Why Jesus took the Old Adam into Himself. Why Jesus became one with us. So that His cross would also be our cross as well. “I have been crucified with Christ!” Paul proclaims this loudly. “It is no longer I who live.” And we too die with Christ. Drown through baptism. Covered with blood. Buried in a new grave, with a stone rolled in front of the entrance. And with Paul we too say, “I died to the law, so that I might live to God.”

That completely changes how we read the rest of today’s Epistle lesson. Because at the words, “Thou shalt,” I die. Crucified for my sin. And it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Christ who does what is commanded. Christ who upholds the Law perfectly on my behalf. And on behalf of my neighbor who needs those goods works. “Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor,” no longer means show them how right you are. Now it means Jesus proclaims the Gospel. Proclaims His death and resurrection. The very power of God for saving your neighbor. “for we are members one of another.” Just as Jesus is a member with us. And so Jesus does speak truth to our neighbor. And He uses us to do do it.

“Be angry and do not sin” no longer means that it’s okay to be angry as long as the other person really deserves it. Now it means that Jesus had every right to be angry over our sin. And it was not a sin for him to have that anger. And yet, that anger did not last forever. That anger was not an opportunity for Satan to take ahold of us and drag us down with Him into Hell. The sun did not go down until the soldier at the foot of the cross proclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” And that anger was done. The wrath of God completely poured out on Jesus for our sake. And if that anger can be done in Him, it can be over with in us as well.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, no longer means tell those bums to go get a job, so that they stop taking what I worked for. Rather it is now Jesus who labored on our behalf. Labored so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Sharing the forgiveness of sins. Sharing His very body and blood. Sharing His holiness. All with us, who, in our Old Adam, would have robbed Jesus of all He had. And Jesus likewise shares through us. Whether material or spiritual goods. So that our neighbor might also have forgiveness as well as food.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, no longer means watch your language. Or saying the right thing. So that people might respect you more. Now it is Jesus speaking. As Paul says, so that it may give grace, the announcement of God’s favor, to those who hear. The Gospel is then likewise heard from our lips, as Jesus Himself speaks with our mouths.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. That no longer means that it’s your job to be nice. It means that Jesus has forgiven the sins of your neighbor. The same way He has forgiven yours. By His blood at the cross. That’s why Paul says to Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. Precisely because God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Not just an imitation, as the Old Adam would want. But as a full blown duplicate of Jesus. And the only way to do that is to die to ourselves. It’s that dying that set us free. We are no longer trapped by needing to do these things for our own sake. We are no longer bound by our own “best interests.” We are no longer imprisoned by what we need.

Because we are dead and don’t have any use for that Old Adam any more. No matter how much it might fight for another day. There is now also a new creation. It is Christ who lives in us. That’s what makes us different. That’s what separates us from the rest of the world. Because now the Law isn’t just something we do to make God happy with us. The Law kills us in order that we can be raised from the dead by Christ Himself. For He has fulfilled the entirety of the Law already. And continues to fulfill it by living His life in us.

In this world, we still have tension. The fight between the Old Adam and the new creation in Christ are constantly at odds. The Old Adam offers all kinds of compromises. And is willing to bargain to stay alive. The Old Adam offers its futility of mind and darkness of understanding as great wisdom. Saying, “I do all these things God commands for my own benefit, my own victory.” But the cross is for the Old Adam to die upon. And that is exactly where Jesus brought him. Jesus died there with him. But then Jesus rose with someone new. A new creation. Jesus rose with you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

No Place Like Home – A Sermon on Ephesians 2:11-22

July 18, 2015 1 comment

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text today is the Epistle Lesson, where Paul writes, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise.

We use clichés because they’re true. And the saying, “there’s no place like home,” fits that definition. Home is where the people you know are. The places you’re familiar with. The habits and customs make perfect sense, because maybe you grew up with them. Or at least learned why they’re there. Home is often something we take for granted, because it’s always there somewhere, even when things aren’t going as well as we would like.

When you head somewhere new, all those familiar are gone. The people are all new. The places are unknown. Habits and customs are weird. And it’s painfully obvious that you don’t quite fit in. We all go through that at some point. Whether it was a new school when you were young. Or a new house. Or when you first got married. Or moving to a new town. Or a new stage in life. Everyone knows what it’s like to be alien. To be a stranger. And it’s hard to not know.

Because it’s not enough to know what’s different. In order to understand. In order to fit in. In order to make a new place home, you have to know why these things are the way they are. You need the foundation. You need the story behind it all. You need to be part of the history. Because without it, how can you ever understand why?

That said, there are a lot of things we have in common, even with people we’ve never met. We all live in the same world. We see the same sky, breathe the same air, face the same challenges. We all have family and friends. We all have joys and griefs. We have the same fears and worries. We might not know all the details, and we might not be exactly alike. But there is a lot of common ground there. There is a foundation we can build on. A history we can pull from. So that no one necessarily has to be an alien or a stranger. No one needs to be separated again.

If only God worked that way. Because as good as all that sounds, that’s the complete opposite of how God works. Because as much as we may have in common with each other, we really don’t have a lot in common with God. And the foundation He’s working on is very different than the one the world would have us build on.

We really don’t have a lot in common with God. He’s perfect, we’re not. He’s holy, we’re sinners. He’s all powerful, we’re at the mercy of circumstances. He’s all knowing, we only have questions. Take today’s text. How would you close the distance between where you’re at and somewhere far distant? I’m pretty sure it’s by going that direction. But, no. God says, “Here’s blood,” And you’re there. How might you make peace with some who is hostile? I’m pretty sure listening, and patience play a big part. But, no. God says, “Here’s my dead son. I took your disagreement and put it inside His flesh. And voila! Peace.”

How might you make things right if you fell on the wrong side of the law? I’m not so sure on that one. Some people might try and find a way to make things right through some kind of service. Others might run away, and hope it never catches up with them. But, no. God says, “I’m going to merge you with someone else into a whole new person, so that the law will no longer matter.”

How might you handle your sin against God Himself? People have tried all kinds of things. Justifying their own actions in an attempt to prove that they didn’t really do anything wrong. Or maybe trying to strike up a bargain with the Almighty, in exchange for a little leniency. Or just getting really mad that God hold them to such a high standard in the first place. But no, God says, “It’s already taken care of. I killed your sin on a couple of slabs of wood in Roman times. Oh, and by the way, you now have access to me at anytime you want.” Isn’t that exactly what Paul writes here in Ephesians?

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

None of those are things that come from our own foundation. That doesn’t come from our story, our experience. All these things are downright strange. They’re weird. They’re not normal. They’re foreign to us as residents of a sin infected world. And so none of the things God says make us comfortable. Not that sinful part in us. Which is why when it comes to the holy Gospel, the whole world gives a collective, “Huh?”

And yet, God builds a brand new foundation in us. A foundation, that to this sinful world looks dubious at best. And more than likely insane. And we may try to get both worlds to match up and get along. But that never lasts for long. God’s new foundation is the old, ancient foundation. Built before the creation of the world. Built before sin and its infectious touch had its way. A foundation that Christ’s church has been proclaiming since Adam. A foundation built on what God has revealed about Himself, and us, and the world. The foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity. The foundation of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The foundation of the Word of God. The foundation of Law and Gospel. The foundation of creation. The foundation of marriage. The foundation of death and resurrection. The foundation of the incarnation. The foundation of the atonement. The foundation of the Church itself. And that foundation is none other than Jesus alone. Jesus is there for you in all those things. He is the solid rock on which we stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

And so the foundation is laid. Jesus Christ is crucified and risen. And the house is built. And where might that house be? Maybe heaven? I’m pretty sure that’s a pretty good bet. But then God goes and does something absolutely crazy. In laying that foundation in you, he has turned you into His house in which He lives. And not the other way around! The holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, omni-present God takes up residence in you. And declared you to be His temple. Making Himself yours just as much as you are His.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Not citizens by moving you from one country to another, but by Jesus putting His whole nation into you. That’s crazy! And that’s precisely how God works. And all those things Paul says in today’s text, is exactly what Jesus says to you today. Here’s my blood, and voila! You’ve arrived at where Jesus is. Need peace? There’s Jesus Crucified. And in that death and resurrection, peace has been delivered directly to you by God Himself. On the wrong side of that Law? You are now one in Christ. You and Jesus together in one flesh. And His holiness is completely yours now. While your sin is left behind in His grave. And that sin that separates you from God? Forgiven at the cross. It has all been made right.

That’s not at all the way we would have done it. And that’s nothing at all like the way the world would do it. That’s why the Gospel will always sound strange to the world. Because it doesn’t come from the foundation the world has set up. It doesn’t come from the story that the world knows. It comes from a very alien place as far as our sinful flesh is concerned. But for all those who are in Christ Jesus, it is home. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

What Can I Be Sure Of? – A Sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14

July 11, 2015 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The cliché goes, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And for the most part it’s true. You cannot be assured that everyone will like you. You cannot be assured that everything will be fair. You cannot be assured that things will always go well. You cannot be assured that people will always understand what you say. That lifetime warranty? Depends on whose lifetime. Even people change over time. You might go your whole life as a Christian, and never have a pastor who is very good. You might never fulfill your dreams, no matter how hard you try. You might not always be okay. You might outlive your children. The number of assurances we have in this life are very, very few.

And yet, it’s on these unsure things that we want to base our whole lives. I know I do. Because if there’s anything I can do to make any of those things I mentioned before happen, I’m going to do them. I’m not just going to hope someone else can do them for me. Because there’s also that other cliché, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Because if you leave it to someone else, what assurances do you have? But, as it turns out, not even doing things yourself is all that sure. Especially with things that really matter.

But Paul writes in our Epistle lesson today about an assurance that we can have. An assurance that is certain. Because it’s an assurance from God Himself. Because God has surely blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Not that God might do this, or that God can do this. God has done this for us. It has already happened. And it has happened through Jesus.

Our English translation does us a great favor here. Because this entire text today, verses 3-14 end up being one long sentence in the Greek. Because that’s how things were written if you wanted people to pay attention to them. Just one subject, one main verb, and a whole lot of subordinate clauses. That’s good Greek. But it’s terrible English. So we break it down into smaller sentences, which we can get ahold of a lot better. The only problem is that we miss that this blessing with which God has blessed us is what the rest of the verses today are all about. But that problem is better than not being unable to understand it at all. And that’s why pastors get trained to read Greek and Hebrew.

So all those spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are assuredly ours! Great! What exactly does that mean? It means that all of what follows verse three has already been given to us by God. Given through Christ. And that we can bank on all of them in a way that we never could with anything else in the world.

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. That has already been done, and it’s yours. That “in Him” matters. Because that means we are in Christ. And I know we say that a lot without explaining exactly what that means. But it means literally what it says. When Jesus was hanging there on that cross, guess who He has with Him in there. You. Your sinful self. All the wrongs you have ever done. All the things ever done to you. All the times everything has fallen apart around you. All the times you have fallen apart yourself. All that is inside Jesus as He hangs there on that cross. And they’re in there so that they can die with Him. And you remain inside Jesus when He rises again on the third day. You remain inside Jesus when He ascends into heaven. You remain inside Jesus on the day of the resurrection. That has already been done.

That we should be holy and blameless before Him. That has also already been done, and it’s yours. Because the sin that still hangs on to you is already in Jesus’ grave. And that’s where it will stay. It is dead. And God has put a new creation in you. And that new creation, that faith He has made, is holy. It is blameless. And it is before Him for all eternity. And while we still are dealing with both sinner and saint inside ourselves right now, inside time, God, outside time, considers it a done deal.

In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. This has been done. We are adopted. Paul doesn’t say that we might be adopted, Paul doesn’t say that we may be predestined, but we have no way of really knowing for sure. He predestined us. And that is assured. Because the assurance isn’t in what we ourselves did. The assurance isn’t in some unknowable, inscrutable will. God says it plainly to the Ephesians and to us all right here. Through Christ, you are children of God. Because the very means which God uses to save people, He has sent to you. The Gospel itself. The power of God unto salvation. Given by means of Word and Sacrament. This has already been done.

He has blessed us in the Beloved one. This too has already been done. But what is it to be blessed? Our definition and God’s definition don’t always see eye to eye. The kinds of blessings we want are all those things that we want guaranteed to us, but really aren’t. Like friends. Like a fair, good life. Like people seeing things your way. Like health and wellness for you and all those you love. But what God calls blessings are something else entirely. Blessed are not just the poor in money, but the poor in Spirit. Blessed are those who mourn, who are humiliated, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because there is none near. Blessed are the persecuted and the reviled. And Yet God calls them blessings. Because in them we find the Beloved one. In them we find Jesus there for us. And there in a way that is real. A way that is sure. We might not like those kinds of blessings today. But there is no better blessing than to be where Jesus is. And this has already been done for you.

This has all already been done, because it’s all found at the cross. And that is exactly where Paul would have us look first and foremost. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. That blood has already been shed for you. The forgiveness of your trespasses has already happened. The riches of His grace has already been lavished upon you, and still is. And it has been done through His wisdom and insight. And if even the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men, then the wisdom of God is something far above and beyond. And this wisdom and insight has already been given to you as well.

For He has [made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ. There is no guessing. There is no hoping it all happens to turn out right. There is no not being sure. God has declared the mystery to you today, and every day in His Word. In His Gospel. In the death and resurrection of Jesus for you. So that you can be assured that God has not left you alone in this world of uncertainty.

Christ is certain. Your salvation is certain, because it doesn’t rest with you. And it doesn’t rest with this world. It rests solely in Christ. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. And In him you also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it. 

These are the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, which are given to us by God in Christ. And these blessings are sure. So that no matter what uncertainty we face. No matter what losses we incur. No matter what pains this world inflicts on us. And no matter what our sinful hearts feel, you can know that Jesus Christ has indeed died on your behalf. And that His resurrection is your resurrection. That all these pains, and griefs, and losses are not final. That you are forgiven. Because this has already been given to you. Sealed with a promise. A lifetime guarantee. And that lifetime actually matters, because, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Life doesn’t have very many assurances. But this one here, given by God. This is the only one that matters. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon
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