Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Matter of Trust

JOHN 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

In the name of Jesus:

Who Do You Trust was an American game show, which aired from 1957 to 1963. It held a prime afternoon time slot, prime in that it was aired when kids got home from school.
Three couples competed on each show, nearly always a man and a woman chosen for their unique backgrounds; the announcer would introduce couples one at a time, and Carson spent more time interviewing the contestants than quizzing them. In the quiz portion, Carson would tell the male contestant the category of the upcoming question; the man would then have to decide whether to answer the question himself or "trust" the woman to do so. Three questions were played per couple, worth $25, $50, and $75; if two or all three couples tied in the cash winnings, they were asked a question involving a numerical answer; the couple coming closest to the correct answer moved on to the bonus game. The couple kept on playing on the succeeding episodes until they were defeated.
In our text for today, Jesus focuses our attention on who we are to trust. Simply put, there are two types of people in the world. There are those who do not trust God, and those who do. There are those who do not belong to God and therefore do not trust God, and those who do belong to God and hence, trust in Him. Jesus tells us the difference in our text.
Those who do not belong to God are those who do not trust in Him. They give evidence of not trusting in Him by the way they live their lives. Just note how Jesus was treated by those who did not believe in Him as Jesus explains in His own words: “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.”
Those who did not hear Jesus were the Pharisees of His day and age. The Pharisees did not want to hear God and His Word. Oh, they knew God’s Word, but they didn’t take it to heart. The Jews were very annoyed at Jesus’ preaching. They ridiculed Him, called Him names, such as a Samaritan, (which was the lowest and most vile you could say of anyone) and even said that He was possessed of the devil. To show their animosity toward Jesus, set even set out to kill Him by crucifying Christ.
The same holds true toady, for today people live in the same manner toward Jesus. Many do not want to hear the Word of God. They want nothing to do with God and His Word. They revile God and His Word, curse God, only know God as a curse word, and they despise the church, Godly authority and live as they please. Foolishly these people believe that humans evolved from apes, hence it is no wonder they live like animals, and it is shown in the way they treat God and others.
Jesus warns in our text that the devil himself is at work in these people. Give the devil an inch, he will take a mile. And in their own mind, they think that they are doing right and are virtuous. They will do a beautiful job covering up their ignorance of God and His Word, they allow themselves to think that they are doing right, even they may appear that they are doing right, and in their own right ways, they think that they are serving the greater good. Jesus’ judgment is decisive. You are not of God! He says “43 why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” Jesus speaks a stern word: You don’t hear Me because you are not of God. Whoever isn’t of God is of the devil, plain and simple.
This is how we were from the moment we were conceived, enemies of God. But God has called you by the Gospel of Jesus Christ; He has given to you the new birth through the waters of your Baptism. You no longer belong to yourself or the devil. You belong to God. To belong to God means that you are of God. This is what Jesus means when He says that you are of God, for God has purchased and won you by the blood shed on His cross. Christ has paid the price to make you His own, He has bought you back, He has redeemed you, you belong to Him.
Jesus says that blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Those who belong to God love God, love to hear His Word and voice, and desire to keep hearing His voice. If you love someone in life, whether it is your spouse, parent, child, no matter whom, you long to hear their voice. That is the one thing I miss seeing as both of my parents have died, I miss hearing their voices. I treasure those times now I can spend with loved ones. So it is with our relationship with God. To be of God is to treasure His Word. To be of God means that you hear God’s Word of Law spoken and proclaimed, and convicted of your transgressions and sins, you repent. To repent means to turn around, to change. This is done when you confess that you have done wrong, ask for mercy in Jesus Christ, and seek to then give up your evil ways. God has done this for us in our Baptism whereby we have been given a new life and made into new creatures, God’s children through the washing of the water with the Word.
Daily we are called by God to turn from our sins, from the world, from the voice of Satan, and to listen and follow Christ. You have heard me talk about remembering your baptism. Remembering your baptism is simply, daily, confessing your sins to God, asking Him for forgiveness in Christ, and then making that turn in your life to follow Jesus. Baptism is not just a one time act, but it is a continual, daily washing away of your sins so that God then recreates you to be the person He has called you to be in Jesus. Just note what Luther says about Baptism and what it signifies: It, Baptism, signifies that the old Adam within us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, all so that a new person, created by the power of the Holy Spirit will rise in our lives to serve God by how we live our lives. We remember our Baptism daily when we confess our sins to God and ask Him for forgiveness. For in confessing our sins we put to death the sin in our lives so that being forgiven by Christ we rise to newness of life.
And yet, in rising to newness of life, we will still face trials and difficulties in our lives. Once we have been placed on God’s side, Satan then becomes our enemy and seeks to drive us away from God. Satan now seeks your destruction. Scripture warns that the Christian needs to remain alert and be vigilant in life for the devil is like a roaring lion seeking those whom He will devour.
This is why Christ urges His children to cling to His Word. To hear His voice, to listen to His voice, and to follow Him so that we might live in peace. If a parent sees a child running into danger, the parent shouts a warning. The child then needs to not only hear that voice, but also heed the warning the follow what has been said. Christ warns sinners of certain death. Jesus calls sinners to turn from sin, from Satan, and from certain death to trust in Christ. Change direction, Jesus says. Repent. God’s Kingdom is at hand.
God has placed you in His Kingdom in the waters of Baptism. He speaks to you in His Word. He tenderly invites you to hear of His mercy, love and forgiveness. Jesus says blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it, for when His Good News is treasured and kept in your heart and life then you have what Jesus has promised, namely forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
What then of this life? Jesus promises that there will be trouble and trial and tribulation for those who are of God. Why? Because they have turned their back on Satan and the world. They trust not in the world, but in Christ and His Word. And His Word gives life, forgiveness, and power over sin, Satan and death. Christ has rescued us from death and sin and the devil by His suffering, death, and resurrection. God’s Word is powerful for it gives what it promises. God’s Word produces in our hearts and lives joy; peace that surpasses all understanding, and a quiet confidence in Christ.
If we diligently hold to God and His Word, we will remain His people. If we treasure the Gospel, believe it, allow our lives to be shaped by it, we will be blessed beyond measure, because God has chosen to bless and show mercy in Christ. Jesus and His Word will be our armor and sure defense in times of trouble.
Yet if we forsake God and His Word, there is no greater punishment than for God to say to us: I do not know you, depart from Me you workers of iniquity. So fellow sinner, turn from sin, trust in Christ for forgiveness and life. Daily repent of your sin and turn to Christ. Follow Him, so that you might say as Joshua did in the Old Testament: “As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wrestling with God

GENESIS 32:22-32

22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.

In the name of Jesus:
What we have cited in our text for today is a sporting competition, which is one of the oldest known to mankind. Wrestling is one of the first forms of human competition and one of the oldest forms of combat. Archeologists have seen wrestlers depicted on cave drawings in France, Babylonia, and Egypt. Olympic wrestlers were living legends in ancient Greece. Wrestling as a sport has had a simple premise: that is, to pin both of the opponent’s shoulder’s to the ground for a certain number of sections. The victor in wrestling shows domination and supremacy over an opponent by pinning both of the opponent’s shoulders to the ground. The one aspect that has made wrestling a favorite sport is the sheer will and drive that the participants have in the sport. To forfeit or to give in is to quit, and there is no glory in quitting, rather, the glory is in the participation and in the drive keep on going, even against all odds.
In our text Jacob is seen all alone. He had sent his family across the river for protection. Jacob, previous to this, had stolen the birthright from his brother Esau and was now about to meet him for the first time face to face. Jacob feared for his life, for he remembered that Esau was madder than a hornet once he found out that Jacob stole the birthright. You see, the birthright was THE THING, for Jacob and Esau. With it came the blessing from God that from that person’s lineage would come the Savior. With the birthright all sorts of rights and privileges and possessions were given solely because of one’s standing as the first-born. To have the birthright meant EVERYTHING, and Jacob had it, and Esau was left with the crumbs.
So Jacob took it for granted that Esau was going to kill him. So Jacob put his house in order, so to speak. Once his family was cared for, and sent across the river for protection, Jacob remained on the other side alone in his thoughts and worries.
Out of nowhere came a man to literally do battle with Jacob. It was night, so Jacob couldn’t see all around him. It is as if a man fell on him from behind. It is noteworthy to see that Moses records: “24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.” This was a battle, the type where Jacob feels as if he is attacked. You can well imagine the thoughts running through Jacob’s mind and he struggles mightily with his Opponent. The wrestling is of such a nature that there is dust flying. Jacob is literally fighting for his life, for his birthright, for that which was promised to him. That is why he did not quit, for Jacob knew the promises of God. He had no idea who he was wrestling with at the time, for all he knew Jacob thought that his very life was at stake! But this One whom He wrestled played with him.
And then we read “25 when the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. “ It is common in wrestling for a wrestler to perform a move, which would give Him the victory. Now, this One could have killed Jacob, but rather than kill him, He was playing with him. So the Unknown Wrestler puts pressure on the joint and Jacob’s hip sock is dislocated. “26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob may be physically weakened but he clung to the promise of God. He still had no clue as to whom he was battling with, so he battled for a blessing. He was not going to let go UNTIL he received that blessing.
“27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” And know Jacob knows, he realizes that he had been wrestling with the true God-man, Jesus, all night. Jesus could have killed him, but instead played with him so that Jacob, in the end, would seek the blessing of God. Jacob would not let go until he got that blessing from God, and God blessed him telling him that he had striven with the God-Man, Jesus, and because he asked for God’s blessing, Jacob received God’s blessing.
All to often in our lives we are overcome by worry, fear, and the terrors of darkness. The terror and worries of life can at times be mind numbing. An earthquake in Japan, nuclear meltdown, and radiation contamination are just the three hot items from this past week that can cause all sorts of worry and concern. Then there is the fall off in stock prices, the national debt, the economy, and unemployment on the national scene. And that doesn’t include the worry over your own personal finances, your own health and well being, the health and well being of your family, your children, and your grandchildren. The bad news that has hit us over the past three months has been overwhelming. There is personal sickness, the grief over the death of a loved one, the uncertainty of the future which can leave even the most in tuned person feeling tuned out, desensitized, and perplexed. Where is God in all of this bad news? Where is He in my life now, when I feel, as the Psalmist describes: “I am up to my neck and feel like I am drowning!”
Where is God in our darkness and in the times of our despair? He is in the cross of Christ. For there on the cross God became man to wrestled with and defeat the darkness called sin, Satan, and death. There on the cross God tasted death for you! There on the cross God the Father forsook His Son making Him to be the sin offering for every sinner who has ever lived. There on the cross Jesus went through the valley of the shadow of death, there on the cross God walked in your place so that in your dark times you might know for certain that God has given to you an overwhelming victory.
So, why then, doesn’t it feel like it? Yes, God promises that goodness and mercy will follow all the days of our lives and we will live in the house of the Lord forever. But…it certainly doesn’t feel like it. More to the point, it is as if God has hidden Himself and is nowhere to be found. Evil and suffering and death seemingly have its way with the world and us. Is God playing with us?
In a sense, yes. On Easter morning the Davidson household had a tradition. The Easter bunny would come bearing gifts of candy, colored eggs, and gifts. But the Easter bunny would not just put the basket out in the open for all to see. No, the fun would be in the hiding of the baskets and the finding of them. My parents got great joy out of seeing my sister and I hunt high and lo for our baskets, and they would be hidden where we COULDN’T find them. But what joy we had when we found them. It was if our parents were playing with us, only to share the joy and magnify the joy in the end.
God loves you. That is why He sent Christ to die on the cross. Look at the crucifix and know for certain that God loves you so much that He sent Christ to be your Savior. God loves the world THAT MUCH! And so to deepen our love for Him, God in a sense plays with us, toys with us, so that we might know the joy of following Him.
Just look at the case of the Canaanite woman. Jesus was in the region of Tyre and Sidon, when a Canaanite woman, one who would be considered “unclean” and unworthy to be a child of God, approaches Him in desperation. Her child is sick and near death and she, as a mother, is reaching for straws, grasping for help and Jesus is her help. She cries out: “ “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But note, 23 But he did not answer her a word.” Jesus disciples wanted her out of sight and out of mind, saying to Jesus: ““Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” And Jesus answered the desperate woman saying: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” On the surface, this seems so cruel. Doesn’t God love all and want all to become His children? Why treat her in such a way? Only because Jesus knows all things and is seeking a stronger faith for this woman. So she kneels before Him and requests, “Lord, help me.” And Jesus again hides His love for this woman, toying with her so that she might find delight in Him. Jesus answered saying: “ “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” And then this woman exhibits her faith. This is what Jesus was seeking. This is what He wanted for her, for she says: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Yes Lord, even the dogs get a break now and then and I am a poor dog who deserves no good thing from you, but I still believe in your mercy and grace, and so I beg you I plead with you, please helps me.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Jacob wrestled with God; he would not let Him go until he received a blessing from Him. The Canaanite woman as well asked for a blessing. Even though Jesus seemingly ignores her and rejects her, she continues to wrestle with Jesus, asking for His mercy, not letting Him wriggle out of His Word of Promise. Dear friend, this is what God desires of you and for you as well. For in the darkness of life, and in the desperate times that you may be facing God wants you to know that He loves you. His will is that you now and forever trust and love Him. God allows difficulties, struggles, and temptations to come your way to test your faith so that your faith might be refined and strengthened. In your times of trouble, God doesn’t want you to forget that He is God and you are not. You are His creature and He holds you in His hands. He sent to you His Son to be your Savior and God is presently at work to bring good from evil. God doesn’t will evil, but uses all things to His glory so that you might ever and always remain His child. To that end God binds Himself to His Word, to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper so that you might be able to find Him in these Means. Do you doubt that you are God’s child? Look to your Baptism for in your Baptism God has claimed you to be His own. Are you desperate and in need of God’s mercy? Hear His Word for God has had mercy upon sinners in His Son Jesus Christ. Are you hungry and thirsty for God’s presence in your life? Taste and see that the Lord is good in His supper, and that His loves lasts forever! God hides Himself, binds Himself in Word and Sacrament so that you will know for certain of His love for you in Jesus.
Jacob only saw the face of God AFTER he wrestled with God. How would you and I know of God’s love and power in our lives if we lived without any trouble? If we had no trial or trouble or tribulation, if there was no cross to bear, how would we then know God? How would there be any resurrection is there was no death? If Jesus didn’t suffer and die, He would not have been able to rise from the grave. So also for each one of us we God permits suffering and even death, all so that we might know of God and His love. If things always went our way in life, why then would we need God? We wouldn’t think of Him, for we would be too wrapped up in our own little heaven on earth. Is it any wonder why people forget God today, when they seek to live in a heaven here on earth? You see, that is why we suffer, that is why we experience trials and tribulations, so that we might learn to trust in Christ. For in our trial we learn of our frailties, we remember that we are dust, and God then points us to Christ, who is our only Hope and Help in times of trouble.
So when you are faced with various trials, and wrestling with God in and through them, know for certain that God is your ever present Help. He spared not His only Son but delivered Him up for you. He has mercy upon you in Christ. And His promise is this:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Weeds in the Wheat

MATTHEW 13:24-30, 36-43

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
In the name of Jesus:
Last spring I fancied myself to be a gardener. I spent time working in the yard as a way to try to get more activity in my life. I told Luann that I was going to finally mulch the front yard after a couple of years of neglect. She reminded me that I needed to pull the weeds BEFROE I mulched, that I would have to get the weeds at the roots in order to get them all.
I was apprehensive in pulling the weeds because a few years ago I made a grave error in judgment. It was in the middle of the summer, and Luann asked the boys and I to pull the weeds in the front flower bed. I dutifully did so, but in my throughness, I pulled up both the weeds and the flowers. When I showed my handiwork to my beloved, she gently instructed me as to the error of my ways. She asked:”Don’t you know a weed from a flower?” The obvious answer to that was no, but I had to stand up for myself so I said something like” They all look alike to me.” The moral of this true story is this, you don’t want to pull the flowers AND the weeds, just the weeds.
In our parable for today, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of heaven, it is God’s Kingdom which comes from heaven and in the end, its subjects will be in heaven. Jesus is talking about His kingdom of grace here on earth, the Church. In explaining what His Church is like, Jesus uses terms such as weeds and wheat.
Jesus begins by comparing it to a man who sows seed in the field. Jesus is that Man, He plants the Word and faith when and where He pleases. But in the night His enemy, Satan, sowed weeds among the good seed and then left the field. The point here is that the enemy, Satan, works in such a way so as to not draw attention to his evil work. His work is such that it is very difficult to distinguish between the weeds from the true wheat. Satan leaves the field because he doesn’t want others to know that he was there.
The wheat bore grain, and at the same time weeds appeared. Satan was so crafty that when the wheat appeared, and the weeds at the same time, the workers in the field were distressed. The workers went to their Master and asked what happened? Didn’t you sow good seed, yes He did, so how did the weeds appear? How is it that the field has phony wheat? They didn’t take matters into their own hands, but they consulted their Master so that they would do what He wanted.
The Master Jesus, knew what happened, because He is all knowing. He knew though no one else knew. So the workers asked, should we then pull up the phoney wheat? They left it entirely up to Him, because they didn’t know what to do. His answer is simple, no, don’t pull up the weeds with the wheat because doing that would harm the wheat. The Master didn’t want His workers to be rash, but rather He wanted both to grow so that AT THE PROPER TIME DEEMED SO BY THE MASTER, the harvest would take place, in its proper order. The Owner of the Field, Jesus, is in complete control. He placed a value on the wheat that was to be stored. And so, the harvesters were to collect the weeds and bundle them to be burned, but gather the wheat to bring it for storage and safe keeping.
What we have here in our text is a picture of God’s Church on earth. How have we become members of that Church? Not because of anything that we have done! We are not God’s people because of who we are, we are not made God’s people because of what we do. All of the things that we might base a right relationship with God upon God declares to be woefully inadequate. The Bible says that each and everyone of us are spiritually dead and depraved. We have nothing in us to move us to love God. We have no power to come to God. So God comes to us.
Not many of us like to hear a crying baby. A baby in distress. Why? Not just because of the sound that the baby makes, but because the baby is so helpless. That is our state before God. We are helpless. We cry to God for help because we have not power to help ourselves. And God is merciful. He hears our cry for mercy. He helps in time of need. We are helpless to come to God so God comes to us in Christ. We can not ascend to God so He descends to us in Christ, becoming like sinners in every way yet without sin. He makes you a member of His family, His Church, by a sheer gift of His grace. You are a member of His Church because it is His gift. It is free, undeserved and unmerited. Not one of us by our own reason or strength can come to believe in God so God comes to us. In Water and the Word, God comes. Jesus uses water and the Word in Baptism to wash us of our sinfulness, He plants the seeds of the Gospel in our hearts and He waters and feeds that faith through the reception of His Word and Supper. Planted by Christ in this place we are fed by Christ, growing up into the full maturity of Christ so that we might give thanks to God for His gifts by living our lives in thanks to Him who has given us all things. God builds His Church upon Christ and feeds it with His Word and even the gates of Hell can not over power it!
But sadly, very really, Satan is alive in our midst. Satan likes to mimic God to steer people away from Him. Satan likes to plant weeds among the wheat. There was a saying that Luther liked to use that went like this (you have heard me use it with regularity): “Where God builds His Church, the devil builds a chapel next door.” And Luther liked to also tell this story, a wive’s tale, to illustrate the same point. In olden days, when God formed man out of the clod of the earth and breathed into him the breathe of life so that man became a living being, and the devil, seeking to emulate God, also took a lump of earth in order to form man out of it, but instead it turned into a toad.
It is a cute story but Luther told it to make his point, namely, that the devil is forever and a day always trying to mimic God, and the devil will do so even by trying to appear to clothe himself with the things of God so as to appear to be like God. It has happened since the Temptation and Fall in the Garden and it continues even today. Yes, sadly, even today there are weeds in the wheat. There are hypocrites mixed in with the Church. When people say that the Church is filled with hypocrites, well, they are right. We are all hypocrites at some point in our lives, for we are all sinful people. But there are among God’s chosen people those who appear to be Christian but they are not. The devil is alive and well and will even use the appearance of Christianity to deceive and strike at Christ Himself. We see it today when the Bible says that Baptism saves, but some people who are Christians will say that Baptism is really just plain water. Or when in the Lord’s Supper Jesus invites us to take and eat and drink His true body and blood, yet others say that the Lord’s Supper is just a routine people follow, only bread and wine and nothing more. How many times have we heard from the Lord Himself that Christians are not to condemn one another, and yet there are those in the Church who are quick to condemn.
Jesus warns us in this parable to be careful not to attribute these sinful attributes to the Church, but rather we must call a spade a spade and give credit where credit is due. God plants His Church and yet Satan plants his own seeds on unbelief, discord and strife in the Church as well. The devil likes nothing more than the sow weeds among the wheat and there is no one else that he would wish to trouble than Christian people. The devil labors day and night to cause strife and disunity in the Church.. Where, then, in the world is our hope and help?
Dear friend, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. God calls each of us to turn from sin, Satan, and death and to trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life. Repent and believe in Christ. Remember that in your Baptism God has claimed you to be His own and you belong to Him. Stay vigilant in your daily walk with Jesus for Satan prowls like a lion seeking to devour you. Pay attention to what the Word says! Listen to Jesus! We are not called to judge, but to believe. Christ is to judge, and He will on the last day. On that day He will separate the weeds from the wheat. On that Day the angels at Jesus’ command will gather His children to be with Him forever, and those who are not, those who have not repented and not believed in Christ, they will be consigned to Hell.
But until that time, God calls us to work in His field. Work while it is day for soon Jesus will come again. Jesus gives us the seed of His Gospel to sow that seed in and among our family and friends, to be the face and voice of Christ to those who do not know Jesus that by God’s power many more will believe. God’s will is this, He wants all to be saved and to come to know and believe in Jesus.
It is a grim fact, stressed throughout Scripture, that the devil and his agents do their most nefarious work in the visible Christian Church, not outside it.. As Christians we need to repent daily. Jesus has conquered Satan, sin, and even death. Christians are not to resort to violence against those who do not believe, like Islam does. We aren’t called by Christ to use the sword, but rather we are empowered by Jesus to love others so that we might show the power of Christ’s love.
Jesus says: He who has ears to ear, let him hear! Heed Christ’s words, don’t neglect or turn a deaf ear to Him. Repent of your sins and trust in Christ. Show love to those in the Church, for this is of Christ. We are not called to separate the sinners from the saints, for we are all sinners! Christ came for sinners! He came to save sinners. He calls us to live for Christ and to share His love with sinners now, before He comes again when it will be too late. Instead of seeking to pull the weeds out from the wheat Jesus calls us to love. For in His kingdom here on earth there will be weeds among the wheat. May God gives us repentance and faith in Christ that we might be genuine wheat at all times and seek to do His will.
May God grant it in Jesus’ name.

The Sure Prophetic Word

2 PETER 1:16-21

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
In the name of Jesus:
It is attributed to Benjamin Franklin that he said that nothing in life is for certain, with the exception of death and taxes. In our experience, we know that this saying is true. Death is all around us. We have seen and have experienced the death of loved ones and each of us prepare for our own inevitable death. Death is certain because the wages of sin is death. Death has spread to all people. No matter where you live, no matter how you have lived, no matter who you are, you will face death, the death of those in your family and your friends, and your own death. It is inevitable. And we know that as citizens, each of us experience the certainty of paying taxes. In January we received in the mail tax forms from the city, state, and federal government which are to completed and postmarked by April 15. And we pay taxes in different ways and forms throughout our lives, taxes on our property, taxes on what we purchase, taxes on what we inherit. We are taxed to death, but taxes are NOT the cause of our death, sin is. Throughout our lives, death and taxes are certain.
But there is a greater certainty for all of us. This certainty is expressed and revealed in our text for today, where the Apostle Peter tells us that we have the sure and certain prophetic Word of God, that is, we have the certainty of God’s Holy Word!
When Peter writes this letter, he is nearing the end of his life. he is now an old man and was about to die. He looks back over his life since he became a disciple of Jesus and acknowledges that he had learned a lot. He and his fellow disciples had many great experiences, but his faith, the faith of those who follow Christ IS NOT BASED ON EXPERIENCE, but rather the sure and prophetic Word of God.
To be certain, Peter had stories to tell. Remember how he was called to follow Jesus? He had been out fishing and was exhausted because he did not even get a bite from a fish. Jesus tells Peter to let his net down on the other side of the boat. Peter had been fishing all night, and had already let down his net on both sides of the boat but following Jesus’ command, Peter let down his net and came up with a net bursting full of fish. Jesus called Peter to follow Him where Jesus would make Peter a fisher of men.
Peter witnessed Jesus touching his mother in law who was sick with fever (that is right, Peter, the first pope was married, so much for priests not marrying!) And having his mother in law healed. He saw the raising of the dead; Peter saw many great events and had many terrific experiences. And so, Peter relates one specific incident that he never forgot.
Peter, James, and John went up the Mount with Jesus, and there on the Mount, before their very eyes, they witnessed Jesus transfigured, He was changed so that His appearance was as lightening, Peter and the others saw the God-man Jesus in all of His glory. Listen to what Peter says: “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”
Yes, Peter had so many great experiences. One of the greatest experiences was on that holy mountain, holy not because of the location, but because of what happened on that mount. The eternal Son of God in human flesh revealed to sinners His glorious majesty. Peter saw with his own eyes Jesus in His heavenly glory. He heard with his own ears the voice of the Father speaking from heaven saying: This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. These events that Peter saw as an eyewitness only served to verify, to confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that what God moved holy men to write in the Scriptures about what He was going to do was completed, was confirmed in Jesus. The Scriptures prophesized, God predicted that He would send a Savior who would do battle with sin, Satan and the certainty of death. God kept His Word, He fulfilled that Word, by sending His Son Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary, who lived to do the will of the Father, and who died as the perfect Sacrifice, for Jesus was and is the very Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Peter and his fellow disciples saw God work in Jesus Christ, they saw that Word fulfilled and saw Jesus’ actual glory and lived to tell about it. And that is why Peter writes, that you also may know that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that by believing in Jesus’ perfect life, and shed blood on the cross, by trusting in Jesus for salvation you are forgiven, you are His child, you are His beloved.
Peter points to this Word, the Scripture, which is given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is not just man’s word; it is the very Word of the living God! Peter writes, reminding that he did not follow, nor did he proclaim “16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” nor did Peter give this word due to his own understanding or interpretation because he writes that “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
The Word, which is absolutely certain and which came to us under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, causes us to lift up our heads, to Jesus, the eternal Son of God who came down from heaven, not to be glorified, but to serve sinners. That is why Jesus, while on the Mount of Transfiguration, came down from the mount. Even though Peter said, “it is good for us to be here” Jesus didn’t remain transfigured, rather, He came down from the mount, came down from His glory, to continue to live His life for sinners. Christ came down from heaven and came down from that Mount in humility so that He would give His perfect life up on the cross of Calvary for the sacrifice for all sin. By Christ’s perfect life and by His shed blood your sins are forgiven! This is God’s sure and prophetic Word to you this day, in that even though you are a sinner, Christ died for you! His blood cleanses you from all sin! God has declared this from heaven and He has sealed this with an oath. God has punished sin for sinners in Christ. For the will of God is this, not that Jesus would come down from heaven to be served by sinners but to serve sinners in giving His life as a payment for all sin.
There remains on earth false prophets who attempt to mislead Christians. False teachers who call into question the truths of God’s Word. False teachers who point to man’s ability to live a life which is based on what the sinner can do for God, rather than what God has done for the sinner. We live in an information age, where there is a plethora of material on how people can become more like God, or how a follower of Christ can be more successful in their daily life. What is a Christian to think, where is the follower of Christ to turn?
Dear friends, the Apostle Peter had those very same concerns when he wrote this letter. This is WHY he wrote this letter, to address these questions and concerns. Peter’s instruction is to the point: don’t base your life on your experience or on what the intellectually wise ones of the world say. Place your faith in Christ. And where do we learn about Christ? How does He come to us? Not by our works, our emotions, or religious experiences. God has come to us in the Person and Work of Christ. He speaks to us and comes to us this day and everyday in His sure and certain Word. And in this Word He gives faith and strength as we look for Him to come again in glory.
Until that time when Christ comes again, Peter urges all of us to place our faith and base our lives on the sure and certain Words of Holy Scripture, for the Scriptures bring us Jesus. The Scriptures have been written to share with us the salvation that is ours in Christ. This is why we need to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word, for that Word is certain and true and brings us Christ.
In the midst of all sorts of uncertainties in life, there remains God’s Gift of His Sure and certain Word. This Word reveals to us the reality of our sinfulness but also brings the blessings of forgiveness and salvation through God’s Gift of His Son Jesus Christ. His Word is absolutely certain and gives not only faith in Christ but confidence as you daily walk with Christ. So turn to that Word, receive the strength that God gives through it, for God’s Word is the lamp for your feet and a light for your path.

Seeing with the Eyes of Faith

LUKE 18:31-43

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was happening. 35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
In the name of Jesus:

For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so...yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon--and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is."
In our text for today, we have two seemingly unconnected events: the first is Jesus’ proclamation to His disciples (and us) that He was going to Jerusalem to fulfill the Scriptures for our salvation. Jesus would be betrayed, crucified, and yet rise again to save sinners. And yet the Bible records: “But they understood none of these things, This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” They had no idea, no clue as to what Jesus was saying. Their understanding was blinded. Even though they could see with their eyes, their understanding was clouded.
Soon after this, Jesus on the way to Jericho sees a blind man begging by the road. Hearing that Jesus was passing by the blind man cries out in desperation: “Lord have mercy!” Those around him tried to hush him but he cried out all the louder: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus then spoke to the blind man, asking what He could do for him. The blind man said: “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus gave him his sight by saying:” Recover your sight, your faith has made you well.”
What are we to make of this passage, of these two passages, really? Simply this, Jesus is no magic genie. Jesus doesn’t exist to give you your three wishes, nor does He necessarily wish to give you your heart’s desire. This is not why Jesus came down from heaven. To know why Jesus came from heaven, this is why we turn to the first part of the Gospel lesson for today.
This is the third time Jesus told His disciples about what was going to happen to Him. He tells them that He is going to Jerusalem and in doing so EVERYTHING THAT IS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SON OF MAN BY THE PROPHETS WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED. This is why Jesus came down from heaven, to fulfill the promises of God in the Old Testament. He came to save sinners who have become God’s enemies since the Fall of humanity into sin. Sinners who are blinded from God’s love, blinded to His will, in the dark as to who God is and what His disposition is toward sinners. Sin’s blindness separates all of humanity from life, from salvation, from God Himself!
So God comes in the person of Christ, to give sight to the blind for Jesus is the Light of the World! The blind beggar turns to Jesus in extreme anxiety as a person would who was without hope. His cry to Jesus is instructive. He calls: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” This blind man sees nothing from a physical point of view, but he sees, very really, through the eyes of faith. He recognizes that Jesus is the Spirit endowed Healer, the Branch from Jesse, the Son of David, the Messiah, upon whom will rest the Spirit of the Lord and who will restore the sight of the blind. This is Jesus, the One promised of long ago, the Savior long awaited.
And so the blind man reveals his faith. He sees by faith without physically seeing that Jesus is the royal King and Messiah a promised by the Old Testament Scriptures. But note what this blind beggar asks for in faith! He asks first NOT for healing. He instead pleads for MERCY. He pleads for and prays that God will show to Him unmerited love and forgiveness. He asks not once but twice for mercy, such is his desperate straits.
And Jesus hears His cry. Jesus, after all, IS merciful. He asks what He could do for this blind beggar and this beggar humbling asks for a restoration of sight. Jesus said to him: Recover your sight, your faith has made you well. The Scriptures state that his sight was restored and he was able to see.
But note these words: “He recovered his sight and followed Him (Jesus), glorifying and praising God” This man, this beggar became a follower of Jesus. He followed Jesus not because he wanted something from Jesus but because Jesus gave Him something that he didn’t already have. As a beggar he had nothing. With Jesus, he had everything.
In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as seeing.
Virgil's first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but arranging them into a coherent picture was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but his habits--his behaviors--were still those of a blind man.
Dr. Sacks asserts, "One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo . . . that is so terrible."
To truly see Jesus and means more than just seeing Him with physical eyes. It means that you see Him with the eyes of faith, repenting of your sins and trusting in Christ for the new life He gives. Just as you have received His forgiveness, you in compassion share that forgiveness and life with others. It means a change of identity where the Spirit changes us to be in Christ and to be His people.
Our identity is a people who are in need of God’s mercy. Each of us are beggars We really are. Nothing in our hands we bring. Simply to the cross we cling. Just as I am poor wretched blind, Christ loves us and comes to save us. Even while we are yet sinners, Christ comes, in simple water to wash away our sins (Baptism), through spoken and written words to speak to us and give us life (Scripture), and in, with, and under simple forms of bread and wine to give us Himself that we may feed upon Him who is the very Bread of Life. God has restored our broken relationship with Him in His Son Jesus Christ. He has given sight to our blinded hearts by the power of the Spirit working faith in us. He has given to you sight and has so enlightened your life that you might let your light so shine among men so as to give glory to your Father in heaven. God has shown you mercy in Christ so that you might share the love of Christ with others. Christ has been compassionate to you so that you would show compassion to all. He has showered you with His love so that you might love one another, even as He has loved you. For l“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.” (I Cor. 13:4-8). God’s love for sinners never ends because of Jesus. Because of Jesus’ love for we who are sinners, He fills us with His love to share with others. Just like the blind beggar who received his sight and followed Jesus, so we too are blind beggars who have been given faith to follow Jesus. And in our following, it is our joyful duty to point other blind beggars to Jesus, for only in Jesus can sinners see the Light of their Salvation.

A Most Generous Reward

MATTHEW 20:1-16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

In the name of Jesus:
In the Australian newspaper "The Melbourne Age," there was an interesting article research done at the from the University of Atlanta. The article was titled called: "Monkeys want to see justice done."
At the University of Atlanta, researchers tested capuchin monkeys. They gave them the task of picking up a small granite stone and bringing it to the researcher within one minute. If they were successful, they were rewarded with the wage of a slice of cucumber. The scheme worked well. It was happy lab situation as long as each monkey received the same wage. This turned sour when the researchers varied the pattern. They tried giving one monkey a grape for its reward. Indignation broke out. First the others withheld their labor, and later they even took to throwing away the cucumber and the granite stone.
Their sense of justice had been offended. Our sense of justice is also offended when we are happy with our station in life, only to get upset when we see someone in a similar situation that is better off. Then we cry foul! We want to go on strike and demand an end to such monkey business.
This sense of justice is a worldly sense of justice. And that sense of justice, in part, forms the framework for the parable for today. It is the parable about the householder who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on the usual wage, one denarius for a full day’s work. Soon after, he hired others, some worked nine hours, others six, still others three, and then those who worked for only an hour. In the evening, when it comes time to pay up, the householder begins to pay that which he owes. To the first ones hired, he pays the full day wage. But to those who worked fewer hours, he pays the same wage. Everyone gets the same, no matter when the started, the paycheck was the same.
Now, it is obvious that this wouldn’t fly in today’s marketplace. It wouldn’t be acceptable back then either. In ordinary labor relations, it wouldn’t be deemed as fair. For in our world, and in our understanding, if you work more you get paid more. The one who labors hard gets higher wages. The one who works less gains less. In principle, the sense of justice is that it is not right to pay equal wages for unequal work.
But the Lord tells this parable, not for labor relations, but to illustrate the stark difference between His Kingdom and our worldly realm. His Kingdom operates on a different level of understanding, on a different plane than our worldly life. From a worldly point of view, there is no equality because people are so different. That is why the general rule is that if you work more you get paid more. And if you get something as an inheritance, as a gift, then someone else cannot claim that gift. But in Christ’s Kingdom, the free gift is for all.
This is why it is important for us to distinguish between God’s Kingdom and the worldly kingdom in which we live. Farmers, doctors, educators, do different work and are all paid differently according to their labor. Each is vitally important in his or her own way in the work they do. Their pay is different, one will earn more than another, and there is an inequality that exists. And this is good! A parent is different than a child. A farmer is different than a doctor. Each has different but important roles, different vocations or callings in life. But in God’s scheme of things, in His Kingdom, it is different.
How is it different? Because of who we are in God’s sight. God’s declaration is damning: All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There is none of us, which is perfect. God demands holiness. We revel in sin. God desires contentment; we envy those who have more than us. God rejoices in good, we rejoice in getting even. Instead of seeing life and receiving God’s good gifts, we grumble and complain, thinking and reasoning that we do not have enough. Do you know what we really don’t have enough us? Righteousness. God says that in order to enter heaven our righteousness must EXCEED the Pharisees, however our righteousness is like filthy garments. When we err, we try to justify our actions, take back our words, or even strike out at those who have wronged us. We have continually failed to show love to our neighbor and to do unto others in a way in which we would want done to us.
There was once a lady who had a stranger appear at her door and simply handed her a $100 bill. She was dumbfounded! Then the same thing happened the next day.... and the next...and the next. For thirty straight days this stranger gave her $100 without explanation. On the 31st day the lady was waiting at the door when she saw the man coming down the street. But then he passed her house and walked up to her neighbor's house, and gave her a $100 bill! The first lady was indignant and yelled at the guy, "Hey, where's my $100 bill?"
Herein is our problem. Rather than being generous, we cry out in unfairness, Hey, where is mine? It's easy to think that when life is going our way that somehow we deserve it. We come to expect it. We even plan for it. This parable is not so much about the injustice of workers getting paid the same for different amounts of work. It is about God and God's mercy and grace. Sometimes it appears that some people are receiving more of God's grace than others. But as Christians we live, not in a world of justice, but of grace.
And this is the point that Jesus is making in our text for today. We live in a state of God’s grace. Grace is a free gift! We live as recipients of God’s gifts. We totally rely on God for all things. Receiving God’s gifts each and every day marks our lives, grace upon grace. In our physical lives, we have been given life as a gift of God. Not one of us popped out of our mother’s womb and said that we were in of our own choosing. We didn’t have a choice. Neither did we have a choice in making God send His Son Jesus to be our Savior. God so loved the world that HE SENT His only Son. Salvation is a free gift of God. You have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ; it isn’t of your own doing. And this faith that you possess, that too is a gift. It is not that you chose God, God chose you, He has given you faith in Christ as a gift for no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the power of the Spirit. It is utterly impossible for man to save himself, so God does the work for sinners, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! Salvation is impossible with men and possible only with God, for with Him ALL things, even the salvation of the soul, are possible. Your salvation, the salvation of each and every person is solely because of the grace and working of God.
The owner of the vineyard says to the servants: "I treat you most generously." This is how God deals with you, with me, with all of us. He is kind, gracious, and good to sinners, and yet there are those who in their own way of thinking, envious of others. Seeing as God gives us what we do not deserve, we have no right to be envious or even hateful towards others who are received into God’s grace, no matter when they come to faith. We are to bask, not in our own self-righteousness or glory, but to glory in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. God calls us to be grateful to Him, humble, and to serve Him in thanks for what He has done for us with a child like spirit.
Aesop had a fable about two eagles, one envious of the other because the other could soar higher and more elegantly than he could. So the envious eagle would pluck his strongest feathers from his own body and shoot them as arrows, trying to wound or kill the other eagle. It was his own undoing, however. He could not hit the highflying eagle, and he was eventually grounded by his lack of feathers. Envy destroyed the eagle.
Envy or jealousy, that is nurtured and not repented of, leads to eternal disaster. This is why Jesus warns us: the last will be first and the first shall be last. Those who fall prey to envy, unbelief, hypocrisy, and comparison with others, even when they know better, will be rejected on the Last Day. But to those who rely on the grace of God in Christ are saved.
A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter say's, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in." Okay, " the man says, "I was married to the same women for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart." That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points." Three points?"
He says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." Terrific!" say's St. Peter. "That's certainly worth a point." "One point? Well I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says. "Two points!"
The man cries. "At this rate the only way to get into heaven is by the grace of God!" St. Peter smiled. "There's your 100 points! Come on in!"
By grace you have been saved, through faith in Christ, it is not of your doing, so that when you boast, your boasting will give glory to God.

Put Your Trust in the Lord

JOHN 6:1-15
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
In the name of Jesus:
A minister was making a home visit to one of the younger families in his parish. A five-year-old boy answered the front door and told the minister his mother would be there shortly. To make some conversation, the minister asked the little guy what he would like to be when he grows up. The boy immediately answered, "I'd like to be possible." "What do you mean by that?" the puzzled minister asked. "Well, you see," the boy, replied, "just about every day my mom tells me I'm impossible!"

What seems to be impossible in your life these days, my friend? Some task you are facing in your personal life? Or maybe as you look at your present, not to mention your future, and wonder how you are going to make ends meet? The impossible becomes possible when Jesus is involved, for when you place your trust in Christ, He provides for your every need. That is what God wishes to teach us in this well-known story of the feeding of the 5000.
We need to hear this message over and over again, that God provides and will continue to provide. Today though people doubt God and His Word. They wonder and call into question whether or not God will provide. In this world our faith is under attack by either wealth or by poverty. It is one extreme or another, the haves and the have nots, if you have you then supposedly have enough, and you can live wastefully and not worry about the present and the future. The problem with being a have and having more than enough is that you are tempted to forget about God. Or on the other side of the spectrum, you are a have not, and seeing as you don’t have enough, you complain about your station in life, you expect a hand out, or you live in bitterness toward others who have more than you.
I have noticed this on television and on the talk shows today, a type of class warfare has broken out in our society and in the world. The wealthy live in opulence, seemingly as if they don’t have a care in the world, they live as if they are masters of their own destiny and as if they don’t need God and as if God doesn’t exist. They live for self, for pleasure, and for the moment. On the other side there are those who don’t have, who live in jealousy toward those who have more than them, who think if they only had more their lives would be better and that their problems would be solved! They live in anger and bitterness. The problem: both the haves and the have nots are wrong for neither place their trust in God.
We need to hear and learn again the lesson Jesus teaches in this miracle, the feeding of the 5000. Jesus desires that we seek a middle course; trust in Him for all things. He seeks to teach His disciples and us that He is all we need. He doesn’t want us to worry about our future nor be greedy for great wealth because WHAT WE NEED WILL BE PROVIDED! Here is the great lesson: God gives to us in mercy and without measure, if we only would trust in Him.
Note our text. Five thousand men, not counting women and children so the number is probably actually in the ten thousand figure, are assembled on the side of a mountain; all are in need of the most basic necessity, food. Jesus, the Son of God, knows this. He knows that He can provide, but do His followers? That is why Jesus asks Phillip the question, to play with him but also to instruct Him: Phillip, where are we going to buy bread for all of these people to get something to eat? The One asking is the One who can provide that bread, but does Phillip believe that Jesus can do that? No! For Phillip’s answer is just like the answer that we would provide. Phillip says: “We only have so much cash. Even if we could buy bread with this money, it will only go so far. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, Jesus; we only have enough for each to get a morsel of bread. Who can be satisfied with that?”
And then Andrew chimes in and says: “Here is a little boy who has five loaves of bread and a few fish, but a lot of good that will do!” I get the sense of hopelessness in Andrew’s voice. Much like those of us you question if Social Security will be there for us in our old age, or if we will have enough in our pension fund, or what about just having enough to get by today? Just as Phillip and Andrew needed to learn the lesson, so do we today!
Jesus took what was there, as meager as it seems on the surface, and then lifts up His eyes to heaven to thank God for His gifts, and then instructs His disciples to seat everyone in an orderly manner so that all can receive the gifts of God. And Jesus feeds, Jesus provides, so much so that the Bible says that everyone ate until THEY HAD THEIR FILL. They had eaten enough, and when they were done, they collected the leftovers and even though they started with five loaves of bread, in the end there were twelve baskets full of leftovers! Even they had more than enough; there was still waste or leftovers remaining! Jesus simply wants us to know and believe that if we trust in Him, we will have everything we need. The One who took on our sins on the cross, to grant us our salvation and solve our greatest need, will also take care of His children on earth, even those needs which worry and concern us.
Now some of you may be thinking, get real, Pastor. This all sounds good but that is not how it works in the real world. My friend, Jesus knows the real world, He came into this world to really live the life as your Substitute. Jesus said of Himself that the foxes have their holes in which they live in, the birds in the air have their nests to reside, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus knows your situation; He has been there and done that. He lived trusting in the Lord throughout His life and then gave up His life as the payment for all sin. The Son of God in human flesh has provided for your salvation, more than that, He still provides for your every need. He tells us to look at the lilies of the field, they neither toil nor spin but they are beautiful in their attire for God has provided them for. God provided for His creation, this is what Luther confesses in the explanation of the First Article of the Creed where he writes that He, God, daily and richly provides for our every need. God provides, but in our unbelief, we despair. The fault doesn’t lie with God, but in our greed and in our lack of faith.
And so God calls us this day to repent. To confess the sins of greed, and want, and our lack of faith. Confess them to God who sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. For God states that if we confess our sin He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins in Christ and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As God’s children God calls His own to trust in Him, for all things, physical, and spiritual.
And yet the world still offers its wares. The worldly still live as a discontented bunch. God gives faith in Baptism, and yet the devil tempts us to question God’s Work. Jesus promises to feed us in His Supper but His Meal is despised, as sinners grow tired of what He gives. Jesus speaks to us in His Word and yet hearts grow cold and hard as sinners seek to be entertained. God continues to give and bless, but for the world it is never enough. God gives bountifully, but it is never enough. Today people act as if God could not perform a miracle for them. They think that if they don’t take matters into their own hands, if they don’t look out for themselves, no one else will. And so they live in greed and want and for them Jesus means nothing.
But for those of us who are in Christ, Jesus means everything. And He teaches us in this simple lesson that we mean everything to Him. He lived, died, and rose again to give us eternal life. And seeing as Jesus gives eternal life, He also takes care of His own, He is so gracious, and He even cares for us, even without our asking! And He tells us this simple truth: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you. Jesus is rich, we are poor, but Jesus in His grace blesses us with the riches of His bounty. So listen to Him in His Word. Trust and follow Christ in your life. Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you. Let Him worry about where your next meal will come from. Just as His disciples learned this lesson may we learn it well today too!
In Jesus’ name

The Stronger One

LUKE 11:14-28

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” 27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In the name of Jesus:
Does the name Brian Shaw ring a bell? It will if you followed the Arnold Swartzenagger Strong Man Competition in Columbus. Shaw was recognized for winning the Strongman competition at the recent Arnold Classic. What is a strongman competition? It is a competition, which has been held since the inception of the Arnold Classic in 2002, which involves a series of weight lifting events, from carrying a large piece of timber to lifting tires, which weighed 1100 pounds. As the strong man, Shaw was crowned as the strongest man and won prize money totaling $50,000.
There is one who is stronger than Brian Shaw, though. While Shaw might be recognized for his accomplishments, the one who is stronger than Shaw, many times, is taken for granted. Some doubt his existence. Others doubt his power. However, when you note what is happening in the world, there can be no doubt as to his reality. We see evidences of his reality in the evil that exists in the world. We see it in how people treat one another, we see it in the maladies that people have and the problems people face. The strong man of whom I am referring to, and to which our text for today speaks of, goes by many names: Beelzebub, the Devil, or Satan.
The reality of Satan was not in question in Jesus’ day. Note what Luke, the Physician records in our text: “Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons,” No one doubted Satan’s existence, for they had in their midst one who was demon possessed, possessed by the devil himself. While those present did not doubt the devil’s existence, they DID DOUBT the power and the reality of Jesus’ existence. Imagine that, Jesus is right there physically present in their midst, they had seen with their own eyes His power and His miraculous healings, but doubted that He was the Son of God. How did they try to explain away Jesus’ power and work? By simply saying that He was a son of the Devil Himself. Listen: “17 but he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
There can be no doubt, dear friends, of Satan’s existence and power. The Scripture ascribes to Satan the power of evil. God created all things good, even Satan, but Satan sinned and fell from God’s glory. Satan since his fall from grace has been God’s enemy. And since the fall of mankind into sin, all of humanity has been on Satan’s side as well. Sin is never a friend or ally of God. God has been and always will be opposed to sin and Satan. Satan is called the Prince of the air, the roaring lion who prowls around seeking those whom he can devour. Make no mistake; Satan is alive and well today. Even though people will deny his existence and his power, some even will say that sin and evil is all in your mind, sin, evil and Satan ARE AN EVERPRESENT REALITY TODAY.
Just look at the evidence. Just look at what has happened in our fallen world in the past few months! There have been political uprisings, earthquakes and tsunamis, destruction, devastation, innocent people losing their lives in senseless killings; the list goes on and on! If we lived in a perfect world without sin, there would be none of these things! Their very existence reveals the reality of sin, death, and yes, Satan. Satan is like a strong man who has such a strong grip on this world and its people. He has the world in his clutches like a vice and he will not let go until he succeeds in bringing God’s creation to its destruction.
Those who were present with Jesus, who witnessed this healing of the man who was mute and gave credit to this miracle to Satan! They reasoned that Jesus was a son of the devil; hence, the devil made the man not only mute, but also gave the mute the ability to speak! Like Pharaoh of old, their hearts were hard (Ex. 8:16–24). Pharaoh, even though he witnessed the plaques, did not want to give God the credit. So God hardened his heart. Just as he did not recognize the power of God, so too there were those present in Jesus’ very midst who did not recognize the finger of God, the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through Jesus, however, refutes the notion that he was a child of the devil by clearly stating that a house divided cannot stand. Jesus asserts that He has come into the world as the Son of God, and it was His duty to overcome the strongman of the world, Satan. Jesus came to usher in His Kingdom, a Kingdom not of evil but of goodness and grace, a Kingdom of salvation and forgiveness, and a Kingdom that ushers in the good and gracious reign of God.
The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom where God reigns. Jesus brought this Kingdom to sinful people in His very birth, a birth where the angels sang of God’s Kingdom when they sang: Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth. God’s Kingdom was proclaimed in John the Baptist and Jesus’ words: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. God’s Kingdom was manifested in Jesus when He healed the sick, gave the blind their sight, gave the mute the ability to speak, and when He raised the dead. Jesus ushered in God’s Kingdom as He came to do battle with Satan on his turf, by defeating Satan, sin, and death by His perfectly led life according to the Ten Commandments and by His sacrificial death on the cross, whereby the blood of Jesus washes away your sins. . He takes the devil's armor of sin and death and destroys it from the inside out by the holy cross. In the declaration of victory Jesus cried out on the cross it is finished, and He crushed Satan’s power in His rising from the grave. Jesus has proven in His ministry that He was not a son of the devil, but rather He was the Son of God in human flesh sent from heaven to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. For to all who believe in Jesus He has given to them the power to become sons of God and inheritors of heaven.
Jesus has given to you the victory of the strong one of this world by claiming you as one of His own. He exorcizes and frees you by water and the Word. By the waters of Baptism you have been marked by the cross of Christ, you no longer belong to Satan or yourself, you belong to God. God has spoken His good and gracious Word to you and He says that blessed are all those who hear the Word of God and keep it.
To keep God’s Word means to treasure that Word of Christ, of His forgiveness, love and salvation, as your most treasured possession. To keep God’s Word means that you live by the new name by which God has given you in Christ, named as a child of Christ you now live as a child of Christ. Listen to how Paul explains it in Ephesians 5:1-9: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 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. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),
You were once in darkness but now you are called to live in the light of Christ our Lord. How is this done? It was done in your Baptism, and it is done as your live out your Baptism daily. For just as you have died to sin in Baptism, so also in life you are now called to die to sin, through repentance and faith. By daily confessing your sins you turn from sin and seek God’s forgiveness and grace in Christ. And then forgiven, you are renewed to serve Him in your life.
This plays out in our worship service every Sunday. Each Sunday we begin our service invoking God to be present among us. And in coming into His presence, we confess our sin, for who of us can stand before a holy God who must punish sin? You know the answer, it is no one. Not one of us can come to God on our own terms. We have nothing to offer to God. So this is why each Sunday we begin on our knees, confessing that we are poor, wretched, miserable sinners, in need of God’s mercy and grace. And God is merciful to us, He forgives and then blesses us with His blessing so that we begin and go through the next week with God’s blessing and promise. It is indeed a blessing to begin each Sunday, and each day, confessing our sin and receiving God’s forgiveness in Christ, for this is how sin, Satan, and death have been overcome for us, not by our might, wisdom, or strength, but by the strength of the One who is Stronger, Jesus Christ our Lord. Even as He has won the victory, we receive His gifts by faith.
It is most certainly true that we live in dark times. There is a plethora of things in the world that weigh us down, not to mention our own personal burdens that we bear. But God’s Good News today is that there is One who is stronger than our burdens and our problems. He has taken upon Himself our sins and our issues. We have an ever-present Help in our times of trouble. He is Jesus, our Strong One. So call upon Him in the day of your trouble, and He will answer you, and deliver you, so that you might glorify Him and tell others what He has done.
In Jesus’ name

Doing Battle with Goliath

I SAMUEL 17: 40-51

40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd's pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.”48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.
In the name of Jesus:
The story of David and Goliath is probably the most well known Bible story among children today. Children in Sunday school reenact the drama of a little shepherd boy slaying the big, bad, Goliath with a smooth rock plucked from a riverbed. But what are we to make of it? Certainly, we believe that this story is true, for the Bible, God’s Book, doesn’t lie. David killed the Giant Goliath. But, what’s the point? Should we look to the Bible as a handbook, or answer book, as it were, where we can come up with principles by which we can slay the giants, so to speak? Is this a story, which instructs us on how we can be victorious in our lives, like David was against Goliath, against overwhelming odds? To treat the Bible in this way cheapens it into a bunch of moralistic stories. No, the story of David and Goliath is actually a story of how God works, and how He continues to work for us today.
The issue is whom will you rely on? That was the question facing David before his battle with Goliath. Humanly speaking, if we are to do battle with anything or anyone more powerful than we are, we want to be as prepared as we can be, as much as is humanly possible. If you are going to battle you want the best equipment. You can’t beat a giant with a peashooter, can you?
So thought King Saul and the wise counselors of the day! When David came forth to do battle with Goliath, it is interesting to see how the wise ones of the age thought the battle should be fought. Note what Samuel records: “33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off.”
Saul thought as many think today, that whenever someone is going to do battle with a Goliath, you have to be prepared as best you can be, as humanly possible. So if you do your best, and provide for yourself the best equipment that money can buy, well, then you will be successful. The underlying belief is that you place your trust in earthly things. Use your intellect, the things around you, that which seems to be able to get the job done, place your faith in the tangible, and that will qualify you for success. And so today, conventional wisdom inside and outside of the Church would have you believe that the answers to the problems you face are within your grasp and control. You are the master of your own destiny, and if you do your best, things will work out. But do they? Will they? There is no guarantee.
The greatest giant that you face in your life is death. Your own death and the death of your loved ones. Death is the elephant in the room, so to speak, that no one really wants to think about or address. Again, conventional wisdom would have us believe that one solution to this Giant called death is denial. Deny death’s inevitability for as long as you can seems to work, for a time, but there is this thing called, death, that always seemingly gets our attention. Death comes suddenly, unrepentantly, you can try to put it out of sight out of mind, but it is always there.
You can try to live healthier, but you will still die. You can attempt to get the best medical treatment that money can buy, but you will still die. Live life like a hermit, so that you can take out many variables, which may cause death, such as an auto accident, but death is still there. Live to an old age, but you can’t live long enough because you will still die. No matter how you try to outfit your life to deal with the Goliath called death, it is always there.
Death is the symptom of a bigger issue, the issue of sin. The Bible says that the soul that sins most certainly will die. You can deny that you are a sinner, but you will still die. Death is a nasty truth, as is sin. God, who created all, calls every creature to live in accordance with His Will. Love God first and foremost, trust in Him above all things; show love to God by loving others as you do yourself. It seems so simple, but in reality, none of us can do what God demands.
Look at King Saul. He places his trust in human things to defeat Goliath. He outfits David so that he will trust in human “things” but David tries it and finds it lacking. So too, when push comes to shove and we find ourselves in a bind, how do we react? Like King Saul when we think how can I get out of this mess? Like Saul when we say surely there is something I haven’t tried that will work? Do we look for human answers when we face the Goliath of sin and death? Or will we learn from David, who trusted not in self, nor the wisdom of the age, but solely in God?
It is instructive to note that David didn’t turn nor trust in the human element. His Help and Hope were in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. This is shown where David: 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.”48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him.”
What was David’s secret? He trusted in the Lord! The rock was the means by which the Lord gave to David the victory. But David trusted, not in himself, nor anything else other than the Lord. Sadly, today we look at the things we can trust in, rather than the Lord and the means that He uses. When it comes time to battle the Goliath called sin, Satan, and death, will you trust in self, or in God?
The Bible records that this is the reason why God sent His Son, Jesus, into this world. Jesus came to do battle with sin, Satan, and death. Tempted as we are tempted, Jesus never sinned. He trusted in God and His Word. Jesus lived His life not for His own glory, but so that you might receive God’s glory. Christ denied Himself and trusted in God so that you might have help in your time of need. Just look at what Jesus did and how He faced Satan’s arrows and temptations. Jesus simply loved God above all else and sought to serve Him. For when Jesus did when confronted with Satan’s temptations, He trusted in God and His Word. Jesus did battle with our Goliath, Satan, by using the Word of God. When tempted, Jesus said: ““‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus ultimately did battle with the Goliath of sin, Satan, and death by going to the cross. There Jesus took on your sin and mine, there He tasted death for all who have sinned, there He shed His blood for the forgiveness of all sin, and on Easter Jesus triumphed over Satan and the grave by rising again to life!
God has saved you from sin, Satan and death. Just as David used simple means as a rock to slay the giant, so too God gives simple yet powerful Help. For by the cross of Christ God has saved you. Christ on the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God. To the worldly and the so-called wise ones of our generation, the cross is foolishness. But there on the cross we see God’s love and power, for while we were yet sinners, Christ died, and then rose again to defeat sin, Satan, and death for all who believe. The word of that cross is foolishness to many but to us who are saved it is the power and wisdom of God! Through the simple means of the cross and empty tomb God has cut off Satan’s head and gives victory to all who believe.
But how can we believe? God even gives you faith! For in the waters of Baptism, which now save you, God bestows faith. Today He speaks His forgiveness and feeds your faith in Christ so that you might know and evermore believe that yours in the overwhelming victory by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
So how do you face your giants? By simply trusting in Christ and turning to Him. When you are faced with giants in your life, do not despair. The Lord God has saved you! Jesus stands in your place to do battle against the Goliath, Satan. He bore the brunt of God’s wrath so that you might have life and help in your time of need. In Christ you are victorious over the Devil. And God blesses you with His Word and Sacraments so that you might be strengthened in your daily fight against the Evil One. So do not receive the grace of God in vain, rather, go to Christ for He is your ever present Help in times of trouble! “14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”