Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So, What's the Good News?

LUKE 21:25-35

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

In the name of Jesus:
The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience thinks this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concluded Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators."
When I hear or read about the Last Times, the End of the World, in the media today, I get the distinct impression that the fun loving world in which we live in will give our Lord’s Coming a rousing round of applause for the special effects that will accompany the Lord’s return. But is it for show? Is the Lord’s Coming for entertainment purposes only?
Just look at how the End of the World has been portrayed in film. In the movie “2012” millions die in violent earthquakes and volcanoes which signal the end of the world. In the movie “2008” a worldwide pandemic threatens the existence of the known world. Other movies and books have played up the theme of doomsday, to sometimes rave box office reviews, most certainly to make money, but all in an effort to entertain the masses.
Doomsday is big business, however the End of the World will not be entertaining for anyone! Listen to what the Lord says about His return in the Gospel of Luke: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” How then is the child of God to take these words? Jesus here Luke speaks to His beloved children, those who believe in Him. The Lord’s Second Coming certainly will bring foreboding and dread on the part of many WHO HAVE REJECTED HIM! That day of the Lord will be the DAY OF JUDGMENT. People who have rejected God’s grace in this life will see a cataclysmic change in nature as God removes His gracious hand from His creation. On that Day those who have rejected God’s grace in Christ, those who have thumbed their noses at God, who have been indifferent or apathetic toward God will truly feel God’s wrath. The nations will wonder, what in the Lord’s name is going on here? The seas will roar and the heavens open and then all will see Jesus coming in Judgment. As we confess in our Creeds, the living AND the dead will be judged, and at the sound of the trumpet: the mysteries of God will be fulfilled and the all of the dead will rise. It will be the great and terrible Day of the Lord that Scripture speaks of and no one will escape.
This is what the Lord says. It is His Law; you can take it to the bank. So, for those who believe in Christ, what is the Good News? In all of this, is this something we should be looking forward to? In a word: ABSOLUTELY! Jesus speaks these words to comfort His followers. These words in our text for today are words, which the believer is to cherish. Why? Because when all of this happens, Jesus instructs His followers: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Your redemption is drawing near! Did you catch that? This is why Jesus came down from heaven to be born of a Virgin, to give Himself up in life and in death, dying a bloody death on the cross, and then rising from the grave on Easter morning! Christ came to redeem us, we are blood bought sinners, and God who lived, died and rose owns us again for our salvation! The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin! God HAS saved you. What does it mean to be saved, but to be delivered from sin, Satan, and death.
Most certainly through faith in Christ we are forgiven. Most certainly your sins have been washed in Baptism. Today, now is the day of your salvation, today you belong to God and live for Him. And yes, Christ has defeated death for all who believe in Him. God most certainly loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life. But eternal life is not some pie in sky in the dream. Jesus didn’t come to just take us to heaven when we die. Yes, that will happen, but there is more, so much more! Jesus came so that we would have eternal life in the flesh. That is what Easter and the resurrection is all about!
That is why Jesus tells His followers to look to the heavens when He comes again, for He comes to take you home. The bodily risen Christ comes again, to rise up all of the dead and to take with Him all of His children. You will live with Jesus in the new heaven and earth. You will be alive in the flesh, as you are today, yet without sin. You will be with all of the saints who have gone before you. You will see and be able to say with Job: I know that my Redeemer lives and I will see Him in the flesh.
The Day of the Lord is going to be a terrible Day for those who do not believe. They will be judged and perish forever in Hell. But to those who believe, for you and me who are Jesus’ disciples, we will live forever in the flesh with Him! Think of it, no more sin, no more stress, no more disease, no more strife, no more war, no more sin, no more death. The old will have passed away and the new will come! We will see our redemption in Christ on that Day and live with Him forever, just as He has promised!
Until then, Jesus instructs us to look at the signs. When trees lose their leaves, we know winter is coming. When they bud and bloom, spring and summer are near. So too, note the signs of the times and prepare yourself for the inevitable Day when the Lord Jesus returns. The world is literally falling apart at the seams. People daily are denying Christ. Sin continues to rear its ugly head and God’s children are being persecuted and martyred for the faith. All things anti Christ seemingly now are in vogue and are the rage. It is becoming more fashionable to make fun of Christ and have a lack of respect and apathy toward Christ and His Church. The signs are there. We need to prepare. You need to prepare, for Christ comes again!
How shall we prepare? Jesus tells us: “34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus here says for us to be at the ready, to watch ourselves so that our lives are not anxious about the cares and needs of this life. Jesus warns us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, but to store up treasures in heaven. Be on your guard, then, be watchful for His coming. Daily repent of your sins, daily ask Christ for forgiveness. Seek the Lord where He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Christ has come as our Savior. Jesus will come again as Judge. Until that time, pray to God to give you strength that you may be found faithful unto death so that you will receive the crown of everlasting life. Jesus today stands at the door and knocks, He comes to you in His Word. He speaks to you in His Word. His Word is God breathed, God speaking to you. It is sharper than any two edged sword. It cuts to your soul to reveal your sinfulness that you might turn to Christ and live. Hear His Good News spoken in His Word that Christ has come, that He was born in the city of David for you. He died on the cross for you. His blood cleanses you of all sin. Know for certain that His Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish His will. In these last days, cling to Christ. Trust in His Word, for He says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Even though heaven and earth will pass away, God’s Word will never pass away. God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us for a time. In Christ we have seen God’s glory, His salvation for sinners, our redemption. Christ has come. He comes today in Word and Sacrament. He will come again and put an end to this madness. And so we rejoice! And we pray: Come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Time to Wake Up!

It Is Time To Wake Up!
Romans 13:11-14

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

In the name of Jesus:

Revielie is the traditional call to wake up for the military. It is usually a bugle call to wake up our armed forces. Reveille comes from the French word reveil, which means to wake up. There are different lyrics that are associated with reveille in the United States; the first says:
I can't get 'em up I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up this morning; I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up at all! The corporal's worse than the privates, The sergeant's worse than the corporals, Lieutenant's worse than the sergeants, And the captain's worst of all!< repeat top six lines >
An alternate rendition to the U.S. tune above:
I can't get 'em up I can't get 'em up I can't get 'em up this morning; I can't get 'em up I can't get 'em up I can't get 'em up at all! And tho' the sun starts peeping, And dawn has started creeping, Those lazy bums keep sleeping, They never hear my call! < repeat top six lines >
But it is probably this version that is most well known, and is appropriate to our text for today:
You've got to get up You've got to get up You've got to get up this morning You've got to get up You've got to get up Get up with the bugler's call The major told the captain The captain told the sergeant The sergeant told the bugler The bugler told them all.

God today calls His children to Wake Up! It is time for us to get up from our spiritual slumber, it is time for you to wake up, shake off the doldrums, and rise and live for Christ!
Paul uses a picture to describe the situation that Christians and the Church finds itself in while living in a sinful world. Think of the last time you found yourself asleep (not during the sermon, try another time). When you were asleep, the world went on about its own business. You were oblivious to what others were doing. Perhaps you were dreaming and all caught up in your dreams. If you were having a nightmare, you were startled from your sleep and found it difficult if not impossible to return to your slumber. But the point of sleep is this: while sleeping you were shut off from the world around you. You had no clue as to what was going one.
Paul uses sleep as a way of describing spiritual inattentiveness. Most certainly we can point to the world today and say that many are spiritually asleep. There are many today who go about their own business without thought or mind of God. They live as if they are oblivious to God and His will. They dream as if they can live without God, and many certainly many try. Their sins are listed by Paul in our text: living in the darkness as their lives are marked by drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy. They exhibit in their lives neither the love of God nor the mind of God.
Yet, as sinful people we too are fallen. Before we can say, thank you Lord that I am not like those people, we have our own sins which bear their weight in our lives. These weigh us down. For we at times live as if God is not really important. There are times in our lives when we care more about what others think than what God thinks. We conform and bend to peer pressure. We are quick to judge, we snap in anger and rage at those whom we love. Rather than to treat and act in love, we love to turn and twist the truth, gossiping that which we know not is true, failing to speak up for the good name of a neighbor, failing to act because of selfishness and thus we will not show mercy and love to someone in need. You see, it is easy to point fingers at others who live without God. The sad fact is that we as God’s people choose to live without God. We live and act as if we are spiritually asleep, as if God does not matter. How many times have you thought: Oh, I don’t have to do this, God will understand. How many times have you cheapened God’s love and forgiveness? How many times have you gone about your business without seeking God’s guidance, direction, or blessings? As a child of God, you have lived your life as if God did not matter, as if His Word was not important, as if there were more important things in your life instead of God. And God’s work and His Kingdom have suffered for it.
This is why Paul tells you and me to wake up! Come to your senses! It is time to awaken from the slumber that we are in and repent! In these days before Christmas, the season of Advent, the Christian Church pauses to reflect upon its sinfulness and repent of its sins, turning to God who is merciful and who will forgive sins. God invites you to come and reason together with Him, for though your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow.
How will they become white as snow? Because of the mighty work of God! God the Father in love sent His only Son, Jesus, to keep God’s Law for sinners without a flaw, Jesus lived the perfect life. Then in love Jesus died, paying the price for the forgiveness of all sin. Jesus cried out on the cross: “It is finished!” Nothing more needs be done. All has been accomplished by God on the cross of Christ. In victory Jesus rose from the grave, defeating sin, Satan, and death for all who believe. You have been saved by a free gift of God in Christ, not because of works, but because of Christ. You have confessed this in the Creed, professing that you believe in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism you have been clothed with Christ. You ARE FORGIVEN! Now, as a child of God, how then should you live? Like the rest of the world that acts as if God doesn’t exist? As if we are asleep at the switch? Or do we live for God, in thanks to Him for what He has done for us in Christ? You know the answer, we live in thanks to God! Paul, though, gives us another reason as to why we live for God in these dark days, we live for God because the day of our salvation is nearer than when we first believed!
It is a fact that Christ has come, born of a woman, born to redeem sinners. It is also a fact, that we believe what WILL HAPPEN, and we confess this in our Creed, that Christ will come again, as Judge, to judge the living and the dead. Paul exhorts Christians, he exhorts YOU to live for Christ today because that day of Christ’s second coming is closer by the day!
How do you prepare for that His Coming? By putting off the works or darkness. By living your life in continual and constant repentance and faith. We are called by God to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Law each day and repent, turn from sin, confessing it to God who forgives us in Jesus. And then, trusting in Christ for full forgiveness, we live lives on alert. Like a soldier standing guard or a sentinel who stands at the ready, you are called to live your life as a solider for Christ, at the ready for Christ. Being alert in your life for the temptations of Satan, who Scripture says is like a roaring lion seeking ones he can devour. Being alert, you remember what God has done for you in your Baptism, and remembering who you belong to, namely Jesus, you live a life pleasing to God.
How is this done? Let’s look at how some various versions of the Bible translate this passage, to get an idea as to what God is talking about. Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Don't plan to have your fleshly desires aroused. Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. Don't make plans to enjoy evil. Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Stop giving attention to your sinful nature, to satisfy its desires. Forget about satisfying your bodies with all their cravings. Give no more thought to satisfying the bodily appetites.
It is one thing to say that God has given us our body and therefore we are to satisfy our God given appetites. These are not wrong per se. But what God is warning us against is that we must be on our constant guard not to let these appetites rule us, nor to use them wrongly. When it's a matter of sinful lust we must say NO. In Baptism we have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, which means that you live out your Baptism each day, giving Satan no quarter or place in your life. As a baptized child of God, you don’t leave room for the devil to operate.
Even thought the world in its sinfulness stands condemned by God and under His wrath, you are called to live in the light of God. Paul tells us in verse 13: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” Now the good Lutheran asks, what does this mean? Simply, it means that the believer is faithful to Christ in all things. It means that the child of God will not participate in revelry and drunkenness . Paul here is talking about all night drinking parties and celebrations which cause harm to others. What am I talking about? Think in terms of riots after victorious sporting events, or riots on college campuses during Halloween. Paul goes on to warn against fornication and unrestrained pleasure. The Christian is called to hold marriage as a high and honorable estate between a man and a woman, and to keep the marriage bed undefiled, which prohibits sexual activity which is forbidden by God’s Law. The child of God is to lead a life of restraint. Too many times in the sinful world we see and hear the message, if it feels good do it. That is not becoming of a child of God. The Christian is not to live as a slave to sin, not giving in to any and all desires, of shameless greed and lust. We are not animals, but creatures of God redeemed by Christ! We are called to live as such! to not live as a slave to self indulgence or living a life without any inhibitions. Paul warns us elsewhere in Scripture: “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls!” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Anyone who thinks they could not become the victim of such sins deceives himself.
Rather, we are called to run from sin, to repent and turn from sin, and live in the light of Christ. You are a new creature in Christ. By faith in Christ you have the power and the strength to live godly lives. Baptism is to be your daily dress, so that each day you live as a Baptized child of God! Putting off the works of the flesh, denying the darkness of the world, forgiven by Christ you rise to newness of life, living in the light of Christ’s light and sharing His love and light with a darkened world. You live by faith in the Son of God who now lives in you (Galatians 2:20) Jesus is the vine, you are His branches, grafted into Him so that you will bear fruit for Him (John 15:1-8;) You have been born again in Christ so that the world will know of Jesus in and through you! (John 17:23). Christ has redeemed us so that we may serve Him with fear for the rest of our lives IN HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNES all of the days of our lives until He comes again to take us home to be with Him forever!
In these next few weeks we will be preparing for Christmas. Soon the Christmas trees will be erected and lit. We will, with joy, celebrate the birth of the Savior. But all the while we must not fall asleep. We must not give in to the devil, the world, or our sinful flesh. Saved by the grace of God, forgiven as His children, we are called to stand at the ready to serve our God and others in the name of Jesus. It’s time to wake up, and continually walk in the grace of God, for the day of Christ’s coming is drawing near!