Lutheran Worship and Resources



Traditional Lutheran worship services, using The Lutheran Hymnal and the KJV.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM Central.


Thanksgiving Eve - 7 PM Central Time.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works asgregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas




Christmas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 90 Gerhardt III.83
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Isaiah 9:2-7
The Gospel Luke 2:1-14
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 94 Mendelsohn

Silent Night, Holy Night

The Hymn #102 Adeste Fidelis
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #646 Stille Nacht III.40

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Christmas
Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks unto Thee, that of Thy mercy and compassion Thou didst suffer Thy dear Son to become incarnate, and didst through Him redeem us from sin and everlasting death: We beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may ever be thankful for such grace, and comfort ourselves with the same in all tribulation and temptation, and at last obtain eternal salvation through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Outline
I. The Virgin Birth in History
A. Brought to Bethlehem by Caesar, fulfilling God’s Word.

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the birth of the Messiah. We find a number of them in Isaiah, but also in other prophetic books. One intriguing prediction stated that the Messiah would not come until the throne passed from the House of David.

Herod the Great was not in the line of David, and the religious leaders all knew this. When the star appeared, and there surely was a stunning event in the night sky, everyone knew it.

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people." Genesis 49:10 (NKJ)

The ancient world was longing for a Redeemer, and the Roman Empire was growing creaky.

The birth of Jesus threatened the established religious leaders, who worked with Rome, and the civil leaders, appointed by Rome. Both groups saw the danger of the true Messiah. After all, the name means King (the anointed, literally). Jesus was hailed 30 years later as the Son of David, so this was an important claim, one which especially threatened. Herod.

As God would have it, Caesar brought Christ to Bethlehem, to fulfill the ancient prophecies. Taxation was just as important then as it is now. The key to taxation is numbering the people. Everyone registered gets to pay the tax and support the Empire.

Joseph and Mary were required to return to Bethlehem, suburb of Jerusalem, and make a long, uphill mountainous climb when Mary was ready to give birth. No passage says she rode on a donkey. That is a popular image. When Mary tales began to multiply, the fruit trees were said to bend down to give her something to eat.

The real story of the Nativity is that Rome forced the family to return and the relatives had no room for them. Certainly they had kinfolk back in Bethlehem or the surrounding area. There is great silence about that singular lack of hospitality.

B. Denied a decent birth by His own
people

And the innkeeper must have known that Mary needed more than an area where the animals were kept. But that was the only place provided. The message of Christmas is that the cross began for them at the beginning – the difficult journey, the negligence of family and friends, the apathy of the innkeeper and anyone else in the teeming area. No one bothered to help, but God was there.

The great and mighty wonder of the Nativity is God in the flesh, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth, knowing our sorrows and weaknesses, teaching us and dying for our sins.

The great Lutheran hymns speak of the Creator Himself, lying in swaddling clothes. What people imagined as the Messiah would have frightened people away. But one child said this about the Infant Jesus – “No one is afraid of a baby.”

For so many centuries the great religious (pagan) teachers terrified people about God. But the One, True God came as a weak and tender baby. In adulthood, Jesus had the power to split mountains, but fed the multitudes and welcomed the children instead.


II. Angels are Messengers

Luther’s great insight about the virgin birth of Christ was that they looked for him in a palace or temple, but He was there in the manger. The Messiah was not revealed first to the great and mighty, the wise and learned, but to the ordinary working man.

The angelic visitation must have been the greatest display even seen in heaven, but it was revealed to poor shepherds. Moderns want them in the fields at night only in the spring. That is the new Fundamentalism, but where it came from, I don’t know. Someone wrote it and the idea stuck. “Shepherds were only in the fields at night in the spring.” People reject most of the Bible, but they remember that new revelation from Fred’s uncle’s brother-in-law’s next door neighbor, who heard it somewhere. There were many reasons to be with the flocks at night, but that is all we know. They were there. Was it this time of year? The early Church thought so. What would they know, so close in time to the event, so easily remembered by children, grandchildren, and others?

Some cults do not want to recognize Christmas. That is their loss.

A. "Do not be afraid."

The angels had a great message – “Do not be afraid.” The opposite of fear is faith, faith in God.

Ancient fake priests made people afraid of God. The true God said through His messengers, the angels, “, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

These short phrases are very much like Hebrew poetry, easy to learn and repeat. The verses are a short catechism of the Nativity.

There are two reasons why we should not be afraid. One is:

B. "A Savior is born to you."

Jesus is the One Person who can and does forgive sins. That is why no one needs to be afraid. That is the reason for the great joy. It was far easier to visit a baby than a great and mighty ruler. People were always attracted to Jesus, because of His kindliness and gentleness. I have a professor I was loathe to send an email to. Why? He was always gruff and critical in class. I hated to ask him the slightest favor, let alone a great one. Jesus is just the opposite.

C. He is humbly born.

Lying in a manger sounds so churchy, making us forget the word manger means “feed trough.” The word in English comes from a root meaning “eat.” But we never say, “Lying in a feed trough.” That is what the shepherds heard from the angels, who did not mince their words.

The Savior of the World was humbly born. Bernie Madoff (Made-off with $50 billion) would only work with the wealthiest and most influential people. That is why some are bragging they lost money with him. That makes them important. But only a few could sit at a table with Madoff.

With Jesus, anyone could approach Him. True, the great, mighty, and wise were blinded by their rejection of the Word, but they too were allowed near Him. They asked Him question, taunted Him, and finally worked to crucify Him. The vast crowds came to Jesus because He was humbly born and worked with ordinary people.

I could describe the births of many monarchs in splendid palaces. They are mostly forgotten. One was crowned king before he was born. Gibbons tells of the counselors placing a crown about where the unborn baby’s head was thought to be. “They knelt before their invisible and insensible king.” That hilarious one-liner is the man’s claim to fame. How many hundreds were born in similar majestic circumstances?

But One alone is remembered this time of year – the Savior of the Nations.


---

Outline
I. The Virgin Birth in History
A. Brought to Bethlehem by Caesar
B. Denied a decent birth by His own
people
II. Angels are Messengers
A. "Do not be afraid."
B. "A Savior is born to you."
C. He is humbly born.

"Here are no learned, no rich, no mighty ones, for such people do not as a rule accept the Gospel. The Gospel is a heavenly treasure, which will not tolerate any other treasure, and will not agree with any earthly guest in the heart. Therefore whoever loves the one must let go the other, as Christ says, Matthew 6:24: 'You cannot serve God and mammon.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., I, p. 154. Luke 2:1?14.

"The preachers are to be angels, that is God's messengers, who are to lead a heavenly life, are to be constantly engaged with God's Word that they under no circumstances preach the doctrine of men. It is a most incongruous thing to be God's messenger and not to further God's message."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 153. Christmas Day Luke 2:1?14.

"Whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake, will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him. And he who receives it because of the preacher does not believe in the Word, neither in God through the Word, but he believes the preacher and in the preacher. Hence the faith of such persons does not last long. But whoever believes the Word, does not care who the person is that speaks the Word, and neither will he honor the Word for the sake of the person; but on the contrary, he honors the person because of the Word, and always subordinates the person to the Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 162. Luke 2:15?20.

"Therefore God must lead us to a recognition of the fact that it is He who puts faith in our heart and that we cannot produce it ourselves. Thus the fear of God and trust in Him must not be separated from one another, for we need them both, in order that we may not become presumptuous and overconfident, depending upon ourselves. This is one of the reasons why God leads His saints through such great trials."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 21. Luke 2:41?52.

The Gospel is our greatest treasure because it alone gives us forgiveness of sin based upon the merits of Christ alone. The Virgin Birth of Jesus testifies to the unique nature of His ministry and message.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Advent



The Trinity, by Norma Boeckler


The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 81 Gerhardt III.60
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Philippians 4:4-7
The Gospel Matthew 11:2-10
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 90 Gerhardt III.83

Peace Beyond All Understanding

The Hymn #307 III.70
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #93 III.40

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Fourth Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and hast therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Thy Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech Thee, in such faith in Thy grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Thy promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Thy grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Peace Beyond All Understanding

Peace is highly valued, but seldom found. This epistle teaches us about the peace of God, which is so great that it exceeds all human understanding.

The Votum is a prayer at the end of the sermon, and the Votum is Philippians 4:7. I remember the future president of the Lutheran Church in America asking me at Salem Lutheran in Moline, where he was going to preach, “Do you use the Votum?” I was new to Lutheranism and could not have located a votum for anyone to use. It sounded like something black with knobs on it. My friend Ken bailed me out, saying, “Yes, we do.” Ken became a Unitarian later in life, following the example of Marshall, who wrote The Mighty Acts of God. I told Ken that he switched too soon. He should have stayed with ELCA while it was turning Unitarian. I was joking, but he took me seriously.

At Yale, Abraham Malherbe gave me an assignment from his 1 Thessalonians class. I was told to write 20 pages about the use of this one word in the Greek New Testament. (We use the name peace for a woman’s name, Irene.) I turned in my assignment, which omitted an important insight. The word peace in the New Testament is always found in conjunction with salvation. Salvation and peace go together throughout the Bible.

The first three fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are love, joy, and peace. But one of the best definitions for peace can be found in Romans 5:1-2.

KJV Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Lenski, quoting Robertson, said, “There are sermons in tenses.” Normally I would not talk about grammar in a sermon, but “being justified” is an aorist passive verb. That means that God justified us, declared us innocent, through faith. The first phrase means that we are declared innocent by God through faith. Paul does not say we have justified ourselves through faith. God has given us a pardon, received through faith.

“Being justified” is a participle defining we. The participle is very flexible in Greek, so we can translate it many ways, knowing that “we” is being defined by “being justified.” I could translate, “We who are justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We can see the close connection between being justified by faith and having peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do many writers never send a manuscript to an editor? They do not want to be on the receiving end of an editor’s wrath. “Why do you bother me with such junk?”

Why do people have so much trouble with phoning others to make appointments? They fear an angry reaction, perhaps laced with a lot of cussing.

Why is it hard to knock on the doors of strangers and invite them to church? Fear of their anger and rejection.

A guilty person has no peace with God. This alienated state drives the guilty person away, not because God wishes this to happen. Guilt causes inner turmoil, anxiety, and tension. That is one reason why we have seen an enormous falling away of the younger generations in this me-centered world. Our society says, “Do whatever you want. There is no right or wrong.” But the conscience still works away. The person who is guilty and yet denies guilt runs from God and sees Him only as an angry judge.

Edgar Robinson starred in a movie called “Scarlet Street.” He killed his girlfriend, framed someone else, and got away with it. The movie shows him in a Hell of torment over his unresolved guilt.

The Law works wrath and increases our awareness of sin, by showing us what God commands and how guilty we are. The purpose of the Gospel is to show us that Christ has already paid for our sins. When we see paintings or statues of Him crucified, we should say to ourselves, “Those are my sins. He suffered for the sins of the whole world, and that includes all of my sins as well.”

The peace of God does not come from saying, “There is no sin,” (Humanists, Values Clarification, Situation Ethics) or “Everyone is a guilt-free saint, whether they ever believe or not” (WELS, etc.). The peace of God comes from knowing we are sinners through the Law and receiving forgiveness in the Gospel promise through faith.

Although God is full of grace, we do not receive grace except through faith.

Romans 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

God establishes His peace by showing us our sin and the Savior who paid for our sin. Then the warfare begins. Satan will never leave a believer alone but will use every tactic to remove the believer from the Means of Grace.

I was never going to plant a member of the mint family again after trying to keep it back in the Midwest. But one person told me how to deal with mint in Phoenix. “Don’t water it.” Mint is extremely invasive, but it will die from lack of water. The Christian faith is contagious, because it travels and spreads through the Word. But, if the faith of an individual is never nurtured by the Gospel, through worship or study, the individual’s faith will become much weaker, or even die away. The power of Holy Baptism is so strong that a lapsed believer can hear the Word and return to his former state.

The peace of God is beyond all human understanding because it is one peace that cannot be taken away by anyone or anything. If a Mafia don is set free after a trial, he is full of peace and contentment. However, if his lawyer is tossed out of court for being in bed with known felons, the same mafia kingpin is filled with alarm and has no peace. Christ established a peace which the world cannot give or take away. John Bunyan had that peace when he spent his adult life in prison, writing masterpieces of the Christian faith, especially Pilgrim’s Progress, a book deeply influenced by Luther’s Galatians.

Christ promises and gives us an eternal peace, starting with being justified by faith. This peace is better than the bedrock on which our bridges and highrises are planted. If I barter away God’s peace for worldly peace, I will have a calm and serene life for a few years, but not for eternity. If I cling to the Word alone, I can count on the hostility of Satan and the scorn of the world. The peace of God can hold up against all threats and will last throughout eternity.

When God offers a promise, He also carries out that promise with the power of His Holy Spirit.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The peace of God will keep your hearts and minds a prisoner through Christ Jesus. Once, Al Capone was afraid for his life, so he surrendered himself to the police and had himself locked in prison. (Where else can one get free police protection?)

In this last verse, “keep” is a future tense for the verb for keeping prisoners. In this way Christ locks up our intellect and our emotions. Evil can displace the Gospel, but the more powerful Gospel can displace error, evil, and temptation.

All the admonitions of the apostle are based upon the Gospel. Because the Gospel has given you justification by faith:
· Rejoice in Lord.
· Let your kindly consideration be known to all.
· Do not fret about anything.
· In thankfulness take all your requests to God in prayer.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Quotations for Advent IV

"Melanchthon, the Hamlet of the Reformation, shrinking from action into contemplation, with a dangerous yearning for a peace which must have been hollow and transient, had become more and more entangled in the complications of a specious but miserable policy which he felt made him justly suspected by those whose confidence in him had once been unlimited."
Charles P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, Philadelphia: 1913 (1871), p. 85.

"If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and reckon upon having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies, who will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where the Word of God is preached, accepted, or believed, and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be wanting. And let no one think that he shall have peace; but he must risk whatever he has upon earth--possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam; for the test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience in whatever way we are assailed, and to let go whatever is taken from us."
Large Catechism, The Lord's Prayer, Third Petition, #65, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 715.

"That forbearance which is a fruit of the Spirit retains its characteristic kindness whether directed toward friend or enemy, toward rich or poor."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 103.

"Prayer is made vigorous by petitioning; urgent, by supplication; by thanksgiving, pleasing and acceptable. Strength and acceptability combine to prevail and secure the petition."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 107.

"The Lord's Prayer opens with praise and thanksgiving and the acknowledgement of God as a Father; it earnestly presses toward Him through filial love and a recognition of fatherly tenderness. For supplication, this prayer is unequaled. Hence it is the sublimest and the noblest prayer ever uttered."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 107.

"This, mark you, is the peace of the cross, the peace of God, peace of conscience, Christian peace, which gives us even external calm, which makes us satisfied with all men and unwilling to disturb any. Reason cannot understand how there can be pleasure in crosses, and peace in disquietude; it cannot find these. Such peace is the work of God, and none can understand it until it has been experienced."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 111.

"The reference [the Votum] is simply to a disposition to trust and love God sincerely, and a willingness of heart and mind to serve God and man to the utmost. The devil seeks to prevent this state by terror, by revealing death and by every sort of misfortune; and by setting up human devices to induce the heart to seek comfort and help in its own counsels and in man. Thus led astray, the heart falls from trust in God to a dependence upon itself."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 111.



"Thus we have two parts, preaching and believing. His coming to us is preaching; His standing in our hearts is faith. For it is not sufficient that He stand before our eyes and ears; He must stand in the midst of us in our hearts, and offer and impart to us peace."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., xd., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355. John 20:19-31.

"For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 380.

"Joy is the natural fruit of faith. The apostle says elsewhere (Galatians 5:22-23): 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.' Until the heart believes in God, it is impossible for it to rejoice in Him. When faith is lacking, man is filled with fear and gloom and is disposed to flee at the very mention, the mere thought, of God. Indeed, the unbelieving heart is filled with enmity and hatred against God. Conscious of its own guilt, it has no confidence in His gracious mercy; it knows God is an enemy to sin and will terribly punish the same."
Sermons of Martin LutherVI, p. 93.

"To rejoice in the Lord--to trust, confide, glory and have pride in the Lord as in a gracious Father--this is a joy which rejects all else but the Lord, including that self-righteousness whereof Jeremiah speaks (9:23-24): 'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth Me.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 95.

"Now, suppose some blind, capricious individual intrudes, demanding as necessary the omission of this thing and the observance of that, as did certain Jews, and insisting that all men follow him and he none--this would be to destroy equality; indeed, even to exterminate Christian liberty and faith. Like Paul, in the effort to maintain liberty and truth, everyone should refuse to yield to any such demand."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 98.

"Christ's kingdom grows through tribulations and declines in times of peace, ease and luxury, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 12:9 'My power is made perfect in weakness, etc.' To this end help us God! Amen."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 99.

"The ultimate purpose of afflictions is the mortification of the flesh, the expulsion of sins, and the checking of that original evil which is embedded in our nature. And the more you are cleansed, the more you are blessed in the future life. For without a doubt glory will follow upon the calamities and vexations which we endure in this life. But the prime purpose of all these afflictions is the purification, which is extremely necessary and useful, lest we snore and become torpid and lazy because of the lethargy of our flesh. For when we enjoy peace and rest, we do not pray, we do not meditate on the Word but deal coldly with the Scriptures and everything that pertains to God or finally lapse into a shameful and ruinous security."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 18.

"The church is recognized, not by external peace but by the Word and the Sacraments. For wherever you see a small group that has the true Word and the Sacraments, there the church is if only the pulpit and the baptismal font are pure. The church does not stand on the holiness of any one person but solely on the holiness and righteousness of the Lord Christ, for He has sanctified her by Word and Sacrament."
Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 263. Matthew 24:4-7.

"When you preach or confess the Word, you will experience both without, among enemies, and also within, in yourself (where the devil himself will speak to you and prove how hostile he is to you), that he brings you into sadness, impatience, and depression, and that he torments you in all sorts of ways. Who does all this? Certainly not Christ or any good spirit, but the miserable, loathsome enemy...The devil will not bear to have you called a Christian and to cling to Christ or to speak or think a good word about Him. Rather he would gladly poison and permeate your heart with venom and gall, so that you would blaspheme: Why did He make me a Christian? Why do I not let Him go? Then I would at last have peace."
Martin Luther, What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 928.

"We have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquility, and unity (which, moreover, is not in our power to do). Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ." (Closing of Formula of Concord, Triglotta. p. 1095)
Francis Pieper, The Difference Between Orthodox And Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 65.

"When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God. They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war.”
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 28.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mid-week Advent Vespers Service




Mid-Week Advent Vespers


The Week 4 service will be Christmas Eve 7 PM, Holy Communion.

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #62 iv.51
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 92 p. 143
The Lection John 15:1-10

The Sermon Hymn #58 Gerhardt iv.49
The Sermon
A Virgin Will Conceive
The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45

The Hymn #85 Luther iv.55

KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. 17 The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

A Virgin Will Conceive

The decline of Christianity in America began in earnest when so-called Biblical scholars denied the Virgin Birth of Christ. They were really saying they did not believe in the divine nature of Christ. They expressed this by taking a position against Christian teaching, although they still wanted to be paid as Christian theologians. Believe it or not, this was already happening at Yale in the 1920s.

Many laymen have asked, “If Jesus is not divine, then what is left of Christianity?”
The skeptics within are those who have lost faith in God but want the comfort of some kind of religion. I told a Jewish friend that the Unitarians were people who believed in nothing but still wanted to have a church. That made her angry – until she went to a Unitarian meeting and found out I was right. She was also surprised to learn that Reformed rabbis do not believe in anything they discuss during the Passover. My prediction about that made her angry too, but she checked out the facts and came back to tell me I was right. One reason there are so many attacks on the faith from within is the refusal to accept it is happening.

The Virgin Birth of Christ is clearly taught in the Scriptures, starting with Genesis 3:15. The First Gospel may not have resonated with everyone at first, but in retrospect we can see how clear it was.

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Luther pointed out that Satan pursued Israel from the beginning, search for a way to destroy the promised Messiah. “Nothing was left but a stump” when Jesus was born. I never thought of it that way. Every evil fell upon Israel, a nation split and conquered and in bondage to Rome at the beginning of the new era.

The crucifixion is predicted in Genesis 3:15. Satan will wound the woman’s seed (not the man’s) and this Seed will wound Satan. God’s curse against the serpent is the Promise of the Messiah, the First Gospel.

The Messianic Promise stems from a disaster caused by the freedom given to man.

The Virgin Birth prophecy is similar. King Ahaz was told to ask anything of God, but he refused in a self-righteous way. God commanded the request – He did not suggest it. When Ahaz refused to ask for a miracle (a sign), God gave him one anyway. The context makes it clear that this is a special miracle, not the prediction that a young woman will give birth. “Behold” emphasizes the miracle.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

“God with us” in this verse teaches the Two Natures of Christ. The Messiah will be born of a Virgin and He will be God with us – Immanuel. As I mentioned before about the Burning Bush, the Two Natures of Christ is taught in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

One of the strange twists in church history is that a long conflict about the Two Natures of Christ ended with the Council of Ephesus, where Mary was called Theotokos – Godbearer, to clarify the Two Natures of Christ. That was the issue.
After that, a cult of Mary grew and dominated the next thousand years. Mary displaced Christ in the teaching of the Middle Ages. Today one of the surest signs of a Lutheran pastor going haywire is his obsession with Mary.

The passage in Isaiah 9 explains the Virgin Birth even more:

Isaiah 9: 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Once again the Messiah is called God. There is no end to the increase of His government. That is still true today. Starting with 12 apostles, Jesus established a world-wide religion which continues to spread through the Word. No other government has continued to grow. The Roman Empire seemed eternal when Jesus was born, in the reign of Caesar Augustus. In a few centuries the Western Roman Empire was gone. Another 1000 years later, the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople) also fell. Hitler’s thousand-year Reich lasted 12 years.

God determined how He would carry out His saving plan for all who believe in His Son. The clarity of the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillment across the centuries is the clearest sign of the Old Testament being the revealed Word of God.








---

Almah – The Virgin

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Luther’s comment – Satan did not know who the woman would be and pursued Israel until nothing was left but a stump.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Genesis 24:43 Behold, I stand by the well of water; and it shall come to pass, that when the virgin cometh forth to draw water, and I say to her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher to drink;

Exodus 2:8 And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Lenski, Matthew, p. 53.

Luke 1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

Luke 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. 3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

Exodus 40:34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshdow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.


Matthew 17:5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

1 Peter 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday in Advent



David Chytraeus was an important, but often overlooked, editor of the Book of Concord.



The Third Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 102 adeste fidelis
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
The Gospel Matthew 11:2-10
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 109 Bethlehem

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The Hymn #66 Chesterfield
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #87 Antioch

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.


This advent epistle teaches us about the pastoral office in light of the coming of Christ. The season of Advent focuses on the birth of our Savior, but also our need to be always be ready for His return.

Someone may think, “Now he is only going to talk about pastors.” But let’s look at what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through Paul. He uses two parallel phrases, which help us, since one is equal to the other. The two phrases are “ministers of Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God.” We seldom use the term minister in the sense of the Scriptures. It did not mean “an ordained clergyperson” then, but a household servant. A minister of Christ is someone who serves Jesus the Lord and Savior. If someone comes to our home and US West is repairing a phone, no one thinks to say to the repairman, “Are you the head of the household?” The repairman does only what he is told to do. He may do a good job or a bad job, but he is not the owner of the house. He has a work order and fulfills what that order tells him to do.

God teaches us through Paul that the apostle himself had exactly the same role. He was a servant of Christ, not a tyrant over the believers. The phrase he used is the same we would use for accounting or an audit. “What am I?” says Paul. “Consider me a household servant of Jesus the Messiah.”

This is important, because the apostle’s role is defined as serving Christ. Paul had a responsibility toward all the congregations he served. Not everyone is called to serve in the role of preaching, as Luther wrote:

"All Christians serve God but all are not in office."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

The current trend among Lutheran synods would have us believe otherwise.

In the broadest sense, every Christian has AN office. If a man is married and has children, his calling is to serve his wife and children according to the Scriptures. His office is not the same as that of a wife and a mother. Then too, the children also have an office or place in life, one appointed by God. The duties are clearly taught in the Small Catechism.

Luther often called pastoral work: “the preaching office” or Predigtamt. The person called by the Holy Spirit through the congregation has the responsibility to preach the Word of God faithfully. Someone may substitute for him, but he still has the responsibility. The pastor may sign a check (generally not a good idea) or help with the books (also to be avoided) but he is not the treasurer. That is not his office.

This does not keep the members from learning about Christian doctrine, debating Christian doctrine (with the proper attitude toward the norms of the Word and the Confessions), or sharing in the teaching that takes place. But they do not have the office, that is, the responsibility. The responsibility of the preaching office means absolute subordination of pastor to Christ. The phrase we use from The Lutheran Liturgy is: “called and ordained servant of the Word.” It can be seen as a restricting burden or as a joy. Lutheran ministers know that every result of the Word is God’s will, whether apparently good or bad. (We cannot and should not judge.) If he sees preaching as preaching his own personal opinions, or whatever research has shown to be effective, then he is not a servant of the Word and will be damned for his error and for the souls he has destroyed.

"Thus this text also strongly opposes all human doctrine; for since the Word of God is the light in a dark and gloomy place, the conclusion follows that all besides it is darkness. For if there were another light besides the Word, Peter would not have spoken as he did. Therefore look not to how gifted with reason they are who teach any other doctrine--however grandly they set it forth. If you cannot trace God's Word in it, then doubt not that it is mere darkness. And let it not disturb you at all that they say they have the Holy Spirit. How can they have God's Spirit if they do not have His Word? Wherefore they do nothing else but call darkness light and make the light darkness, as the prophet Isaiah says, in Isaiah 5:20."
Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter and Jude, ed. John N. Lenker, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990, p. 248. 2 Peter 1:19.

If the same man told a cleaning crew to clean his house and they painted it purple and pink instead, he would be furious. Yet God tells him to teach the truth and a mere man substitutes his own ideas.

"Paul does not speak of opposing or antagonistic doctrines, but of those placed beside the true doctrine; they are additions, making divisions. Paul calls it a rival doctrine, an addition, an occasion of stumbling, an offense and a byway, when on establishes the conscience upon his own goodness or deeds. Now the Gospel is sensitive, complete and pre-eminent: it must be intolerant of additions and rival teachings."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 376. Romans 16:16-17.

The parallel phrase used by Paul is “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Once again, steward is a fine secular word never found in today’s English in the same way. A steward was a household manager.

KJV Luke 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

In that parable we can see that the household manager is supposed to do his job to benefit his lord, or he will be fired. He is being fired, in fact, so he makes friends with the men who owe his master money, so they will hire him. His master sees how clever he is and commends him. It is a strange parable, but we can see in the portrayal of the Lord/steward relationship that the steward is absolutely accountable to the master.

So the term “steward” is fairly obvious. But what are the “mysteries of God.” Some people have tried to create false parallels. This has nothing to do with the mystery religions of paganism. Also, the term mystery is not the same as sacrament. That is, the term is not limited to “sacrament.”

Mysteries apply to everything revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, not something we deduce by math or science or prove with logic. That is why we rely on the Word to convert people rather than reason and logic. A person without faith cannot see or understand the mysteries of God. That is why it is so important that the underling of Christ, the pastor, be a faithful household manager of these mysteries.

Can a pastor say to God, “While you were gone, I decided that evolution was better than Creation, a flow of ice better than the Flood. The 10 Commandments are a burden. I declared them obsolete. I am all Gospel. We are all Gospel. I will give Holy Communion, the sacrament you established through the death of Your Son, to anyone who strolls into my church, whether they believe it or not. God, I have a vision for my congregation. One day it will have 8,000 communicants. 8 THOUSAND. And our parking valet ministry will be known throughout the world.”

You are saying to yourselves, “He is making that up to prove a point.” No, I am stating the open and public confession of a WELS pastor who had the support of the district president, vice president, and the friendship of synodical leaders, even the mission board chairman. No effort was spared to protect his position and keep him in the pulpit. Finally, the members had to say, “You must retract your errors.” He said, “I will resign first.” The congregation responded, “Resignation accepted.” He was not a faithful steward. Nor were the synod officials. The members finally accepted their office, which is to discern the spirits, to judge between sound doctrine and evil doctrine.

Oh well, they got away with it for a long time. And everyone has forgotten. Except One.

"On that day every false teacher will wish that he had never been born and will curse the day when he was inducted into the sacred office of the ministry. On that day we shall see that false teaching is not the trifling and harmless matter that people in our day think it is."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 88.

So much is said by Paul about this very subject. He could not be judged by any man. He was not above it all. Ultimately what a minister has done can only be judged by God. Man looks at huge buildings, huge parking lots, and huge budgets, and says, “They are doing well.” God looks at the heart. We cannot do that. We can see certain outward characteristics. For instance, the most successful pastor, in the worldly sense, in Columbus, Ohio, was in the paper. A painter wanted the good reverend to pay for the painting of his mansion. The Pentecostal minister and his father held down the painter and beat him up, according to the news account. That suggests a lack of humility and honesty. But perhaps he will repent before he dies.

On the other hand, someone may be completely orthodox for many years and yet fall away from the faith before dying. Many temptations come along. Probably the obvious sins come after a loss of faith, but the obvious sins end the call. That is why we should not be hasty to judge. Liberals grow into the historic faith and we know many people trained properly fall away completely. I know a pastor who hated all the radical liberal tendencies of the Lutheran Church in America. He joined the LCMS. Then later he joined the United Church of Christ, a group that makes the LCA look staid and hidebound.

At the end, everyone will have his due praise from God. That is another unfair aspect of the Christian faith. The person who believes in Christ alone for his salvation does not have his sins held against him. They are wiped from the account books by the atoning death of Christ. The believers places all his trust in the great exchange made by Christ, who became sin (while without sin Himself) to give us His righteousness. The believer receives this blessing each and every day. His sins are forgiven and forgotten. God moves all believers to do good works to glorify His name. The motivation to follow God’s will and to do God’s will comes from God alone, yet God will praise believers for being His servants and doing His will, even though tainted by sin. The sin is set aside and the good works are rewarded. That is not fair. God is not fair. He is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

The last verse is a great comfort for those believers who sacrifice a great deal, or endure great hardships, or patiently take on thankless jobs (such as being a mother). Nothing that belongs to God is highly regarded by the world. And yet God will praise these things in the end. He knows and he will reward people. And God will show how little He values what the world esteems. Many Christian paupers will suddenly find the treasure laid up in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt.

"When the time comes that the worldly shall gnash their teeth, they shall witness all the elect and angels saying to God: 'This man has been a faithful minister and teacher. He has proclaimed the saving Word of God to a world of castaways. On yonder earth he was despised, persecuted, and maligned, but he shines now as a star with imperishable luster.'"
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 402. Daniel 12:3.

This does not apply to pastors alone, but to all believers who have endured hardships because of the Word and have faithfully served in whatever office God has given them.

Quotations


"The second charge raised by Calvinists and Synergists against the Formula of Concord is its failure to harmonize 'logically' what they term 'contradictory doctrines': sola gratia and universalis gratia,--a stricture which must be characterized as flowing from rationalistic premises, mistaking a divine mystery for a real contradiction, and in reality directed against the clear Word of God itself."
F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, 065 p. 205.

"Thus the Lutheran Church not only admits, but zealously guards, the mystery contained in the doctrine of grace and election. It distinguishes between God in as far as He is know and not known; in as far as He has revealed Himself, and in as far as He is still hidden to us, but as we shall learn to know Him hereafter. The truths which may be known concerning God are contained in the Gospel, revealed in the Bible. The things still hidden from us include the unsearchable judgments of God, His wonderful ways with men, and, in particular, the question why some are saved while others are lost. God has not seen fit to reveal these mysteries."
F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, p. 206.

"For Scripture never calls either Baptism or the Lord's Supper mysteries or sacraments. Therefore this is an unwritten (agraphos) appellation."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 29.

"The sins which militate against the Third Commandment are the profanation of the Sabbath through neglect and contempt of the ministry, through Judaic and superstitious observance of the Sabbath, or through a shifting of the ministry into the kingdom of this world. The faithfulness of those who teach is the virtue by which the ministers of the Church, aware of their modest skill in Christian doctrine, carefully and zealousy discharge and steadfastly protect all the duties of the faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God in teaching, debating, comforting and setting their hearers an example of true devotion and of all the virtues. The other extreme are faithlessness, heedless teaching or negligence in office, or deserting the ministry because of excessive anxiety or concern over one's own weakness."
David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 71f.

"So when we see a bishop assuming more than this text gives him warrant for, we may safely regard him as a wolf, and an apostle of the devil, and avoid him as such. Unquestionably he must be Antichrist who in ecclesiastical government exceeds the authority here prescribed."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

"All Christians serve God but all are not in office."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

"To make himself clearly understood in this matter of service, or ministry, Paul carefully adds to the word 'ministers' the explanatory one 'stewards,' which can be understood in no other way than as referring to the office of the ministry."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 66.

"Thus we arrive at the apostle's meaning in the assertion that a minister of Christ is a steward in the mysteries of God. He should regard himself and insist that others regard him as one who administers to the household of God nothing but Christ and the things of Christ. In other words, he should preach the pure Gospel, the true faith, that Christ alone is our life, our way, our wisdom, power, glory, salvation; and that all we can accomplish of ourselves is but death, error, foolishness, weakness, shame and condemnation. Whosoever preaches otherwise should be regarded by none as a servant of Christ or a steward of the divine treasurer; he should be avoided as a messenger of the devil."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 73. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5,

"Christ, in the saying we have quoted from Matthew (24:45), tells us further, the servant of the household should be not only faithful, but also wise, able to discern between the mysteries of God and the mysteries of the devil, that he may safely guard and keep himself and those committed to his care. For, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, false apostles sometimes fashion themselves into true apostles of Christ, even as the devil transforms himself into an angel of light."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 77.



"Hollazius (992) thus sums up the doctrine: 'The Word of God is the most efficacious means of salvation, for its power and efficacy are not only objective, but also effective; not consisting in moral suasion, but in supernatural operation, not external and coming to it when used by men, but intrinsic in the Word; not accidental, but necessary, by a divinely ordained necessity, and therefore not separable, but perpetual, inherent in the Word itself extra usum, as the first act. This efficacy is truly divine, producing the same effect as the Holy Spirit, who is perpetually united with the Word, which (effect) the Spirit influences together with the Word, by the divine power which belongs to the Holy Spirit originally and independently, but to the divine Word communicatively and dependently, on account of its mysterious, intimate, and individual union with the Spirit.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 507.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent Midweek Service



Filbert tree in Midland, Michigan. Photographed by Norma Boeckler.


Mid-Week Advent Vespers

The Week 3 service will be Tuesday, December 16th, at 7 PM.
The Week 4 service will be Christmas Eve, Holy Communion, 7 PM.

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #73 III.9
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 95 p. 143
The Lection John 15:1-10

The Sermon Hymn #479 III.92
The Sermon
I Am the Bread of Life
The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45

The Hymn #283 III.90

KJV John 6:30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

I Am the Bread of Life

As I said before in another sermon, “I Am” has a definite meaning in the Bible. “I Am” is the identity and meaning of God, the Name of God spoken by the Angel of the Lord, the Son of God.

As the orthodox Lutherans wrote, the Burning Bush is a figure of the Two Natures of Christ. The bush burned without being consumed, so it had two natures, one of fire, one of vegetation. The two appeared as one yet they were not combined. All those attributes are true of the Incarnate Son of God. Everyone saw One Person and yet He had (and still has) two natures, divine and human. The two natures are not mixed together or combined but united in that One Person, Christ.

Those who doubt the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion should dwell on this passage. Officially it is not a communion passage because it took place before the Last Supper. Also Zwingli used one verse in this chapter to deny the Real Presence.

If we look at this passage in the context of explaining what we already know from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, then this sermon is an excellent commentary on Holy Communion.

Just as we have the Good Shepherd in John 10, which really means the Unique Shepherd (The Living Jackson Translation), in this passage we have Jesus saying He is the True Bread.

The manna from heaven prefigured or foreshadowed the True Bread from heaven. Often in John Jesus is described and describes Himself as “from above” and “from heaven.” So the manna from heaven in Exodus the forerunner to the True Bread from heaven – Jesus Himself.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

The opposition groups (non-Lutheran Protestants, often called Reformed by the Lutherans, grouping them all together) teach against the Real Presence and make Holy Communion symbolic, or just a memorial meal, or just a spiritual presence.

Holy Communion is symbolic. Holy Communion is a Memorial Meal. And Christ is spiritually present. But Holy Communion is far more than that and cannot be reduced to just one aspect of the Biblical revelation.

We cannot escape from the divine meaning of “I Am.” When Jesus says, “I Am the True Bread from heaven,” He is also identifying Himself with the elements of Holy Communion, as He did at the Last Supper. He did not say, “This will be My Body; this will be My Blood.” He said, “This is My Body and Blood.” What He declared was already true even though He was not crucified and risen.

What God provides is not determined by man’s sense of time, as we can see with justification by faith. Many were justified by faith in the Messiah long before the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. They received what God promised, not bound by man’s concept of a timeline.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

There is some ironic humor in this. Throughout John people hear the divine, spiritual words of Jesus and they want material relief from His Promises. This response could be seen both ways – asking for material and for spiritual fulfillment. We should note that Jesus of hunger and thirst together, basic needs, but also references to the two sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

So many leaders try to frighten people into obeying them by threatening hellfire against them. Here are Jesus’ words to the contrary:

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

Those who listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd follow Him, and He goes before them. He knows His own and they know Him.

John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

This section is so simple and plain. Anyone with a basic understanding of language can grasp what Christ is saying, yet the thoughts are profound. Seeing and believing in Christ means having everlasting life and being raised up on the last day.

The Jewish opponents did not like to hear this, because Jesus took away the righteousness of works and taught the righteousness of faith in Him. So they tried to demean Him. Either people heard His Word and trusted in Him or they became increasingly angry and hateful toward Him.

43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

This simple verse is another deadly attack against decision theology and all the man-made hoopla they are selling today via the religious hucksters. “No one can come to Me unless the Father draw him.”

How are people drawn to Jesus? Through the Word alone.

The Father, through the Holy Spirit, works to appoint preachers, to send the Word around the world, and to work on the hearts of all listeners. Through the Word, the Father’s will is always accomplished.

The more we stick to the plain meaning of the Word, the less we take credit for anything done. God accomplishes everything through the Word.

So if we want to be fruitful for the Kingdom, we cling to to the Word, we abide in Him and He abides in us.

One way to abide in the Word is to receive Holy Communion, which is provided each Sunday. Holy Communion is the True Bread from heaven, Christ present in both natures. We come before Christ and receive individually the Visible Word of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Many brag that they commune with nature, but we boast that we commune with Christ, since He is our True Bread from heaven.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Sunday in Advent


The Second Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 71 St. George IV.9
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Romans 15:4-13
The Gospel Luke 21:25-36
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 376 Toplady IV.47

Written for Our Learning

The Hymn #304 St. Crispin IV.6
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #657 Schoenster Herr Jesus IV.24

KJV Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

KJV Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Second Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Thy Son hast revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech Thee, keep us by Thy Holy Spirit in Thy word; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Thy grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Thy Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Written for Our Learning

The continuity of the Scriptures is one of the clearest signs of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

There is only one message in the Word of God, and we can see that plainly – from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation. The Bible carries Christ the way a cradle holds a baby, as Luther said.

When someone goes to visit a newborn baby, the parents will say, “There he is,” and point to the cradle or crib. The visitor may see the bed and blankets, but the main focus is on the baby. The importance of the container is the baby.

Often the academics who get bored with the Word (by ignoring the Word) point to everything else except Christ in the Scriptures. Or they want to make a case – that only part of the Bible is valid for them.

I find it interesting that Fuller Seminary has always been passed off as a conservative Protestant seminary. Even in its earliest days the school had a compromised statement on the inerrancy of the Scriptures. They only confessed the Scriptures to be inerrant about doctrine, which meant they thought there were historical and geographical errors. (This is another symptom of rationalism, where current attitudes judge the Bible rather than allowing God’s Word to judge all books.) From that compromised view of inerrancy they degenerated into a polemical stand against inerrancy and all kinds of errors have followed that.

The so-called conservative Lutherans from Missouri, WELS, and the ELS have loved Fuller—not in spite of that—but because of that opposition to inerrancy. Apostates know each other and love each other. The intellectual trip from Fuller Seminary to Freedom From Religion is a short one, as I have seen in many cases.

The Word of God remains the anvil upon which many hammers have been worn out. We only need to let the Word speak to have its effect.

One way we do that is by learning the basic content of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is more like a library of books, and this library includes the Creation and continues until the time before Christ.

Genesis 1 begins with God commanding through the Word. Genesis 1 implies the Son of God creating, and John 1 makes this explicit. “All things came about through Him. Nothing was created without Him.”
The Genesis Flood gives us our modern world and the first sacramental sign – the rainbow – a common, physical element combined with God’s Promise.

The modern world has been shaped by the Genesis Flood. When I visit the Grand Canyon and see the Great Lakes, I see the evidence of the Flood. Oil, natural gas, and coal are all called fossil fuels, but how did all that organic material get compressed and gathered at once? I find it intriguing that oil is found near brine deposits. Michigan is known for its salty oil. In fact, Midland Michigan became a chemical town because Dow wanted to use the vast deposits of brine underneath the soil. Salt water is so common in Midland that they spray that on snowy streets to melt the ice. Dow donates brine from its many brine wells. Brine and oil are together where an inland sea covered the area. Rehwinkel argued in his book that oil came from vast shoals of fish killed in the cataclysm of the Flood.

I was reading recently that the first oil rigs used in Pennsylvania were borrowed from drilling for brine in the area. They knew what to do with brine. Oil had to find a market. A chemist at Yale investigated this rock oil (petroleum – rock oil) and discovered it could be fractioned into kerosene and other useful components.

Much more could be said about coal, where 10 feet of leafy matter is supposedly needed to form a coal seam 1 foot thick. And yet there are seams of coal 90 feet thick. Where did 900 feet of leafy matter come from? Or, why are dinosaurs found heaped up in one place, or a mountain of animal bones, with all the animals together, as if they gathered to escape rising waters?

When scientists and engineers deal with our elements and how to use them, it is clear that God provided for man’s future.

The divine purpose we see in Creation gives us hope and comfort as well. Every single aspect of Creation has a purpose, and so do we. I copied this portion of Psalms in all my classes at one school:

KJV Psalm 37:18 The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. 19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. 20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. 21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth. 22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off. 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. 27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. 28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

The key verse is 25:

25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

Many in the class thanked me for posting this portion of Psalm 37. It is just one example of how the Scriptures provide hope and comfort.

In following the Old Testament, from Genesis through the Prophets and Writings, we can see how God’s plan has unfolded over the centuries, always with Christ at the center.

The Old Testament teaches us about the purpose and plan of God, but also about his mercy and forgiveness through Christ. I remember a member asking about the Old Testament patriarchs, as if they could not be in heaven because they lived before the time of Christ.

Paul makes this point in Romans, that Abraham believed in Christ, and it was counted (or reckoned) as righteousness. That is, Abraham was justified by faith. He received forgiveness through his faith in Christ, not because of works. All the Old Testament figures who believed in the Messiah were those who believed in the Messiah to come. The Scriptures all taught the coming of the Messiah, and many believed before the Incarnation.

Luther pointed out in a sermon that faith in Jesus was more difficult because people saw an ordinary looking man rather than an ideal figure. Nothing was lacking in Jesus, but his disciples and the crowds often expected something else, even demanded something else. Peter rebuked Jesus for declaring His future of death and resurrection (Matthew 16).

So we may begin with Jesus in the New Testament and look back into the Old Testament, or begin with the Old Testament and see how all the Promises were fulfilled in the New Testament.

From either perspective we see the continuity of God’s message, His clear and plain Word of salvation.

Quotations

Preaching of the Gospel – Stone in a Pond

"The preaching of this message may be likened to a stone thrown into the water, producing ripples which circle outward from it, the waves rolling always on and on, one driving the other, till they come to the shore. Although the center becomes quiet, the waves do not rest, but move forward. So it is with the preaching of the Word. It was begun by the apostles, and it constantly goes forward, is pushed on farther and farther by the preachers, driven hither and thither into the world, yet always being made known to those who never heard it before, although it be arrested in the midst of its course and is condemned as heresy."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 202. Ascension Day Mark 16:14-20.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mid-week Advent Vespers Service




Mid-Week Advent Vespers

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #554 by Gerhardt O Welt ich muss
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 95 p. 143
The Lection John 15:1-10

The Sermon Hymn # 64 O Jesu Christ, mein’s
The Sermon
Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit
The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace p. 45

The Hymn #52 Old Hundredth

KJV John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit

This is one of the clearest passages about the Means of Grace.

The Gospel of John supplements what we know from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Fourth Gospel assumes we know the content of the other Gospels. There are surprising lapses that most people do not realize until these omissions are pointed out. For instance, the Baptism of Jesus and the Last Supper are not actually described. The passages certainly address the meaning of both, but the actual narrative is not given. Why? Because the audience already had good descriptions of both events.
John gives us what we would not have otherwise. He was known for being in Ephesus, which was once a great capital of the Christian faith. They lost their first love (Revelation) and fell prey to the Muslim invaders.

KJV Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

So these “I AM” sermons or parables are exclusive to John’s Gospel and very significant as the words of Jesus Himself. If you look at a red letter edition of the Bible, there is relatively little red ink in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but plenty of red ink in John’s Gospel. The sermons are supported by the historical narrative of the first three Gospels. John corrects the impression of a one-year ministry by showing that Jesus’ public ministry lasted three years.

“I AM” passages are significant because that is the Name of God in Exodus. Moses asked who was sending him. The Angel of the Lord (the pre-Incarnation Christ) said, “Tell them IAM sent you.”

So whenever we read or hear the words of the I AM passages in John, we are looking back at the time of Moses and the Exodus, the Burning Bush, the Pillar of Fire. The entire Old Testament is Christ-centered.

The opponents yelled, “We have Abraham for our father.” Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” There He clearly identified Himself with the Angel of the Lord. There He called Himself God.

This passage in John emphasizes the Father-Son relationship but the Holy Spirit is not ignored. The divine effect of the Word is through the Holy Spirit, as we see throughout John’s Gospel. The Father-Son relationship in John 15:1-10 is explicit. The work of the Holy Spirit through the Word is implicit.

As far as I know, no one questioned the divine and immediate effect of the Word in those days. Anyone raised in Judaism knew that God’s Word was no different from His Will. It always produced results (Isaiah 55:1-10)

KJV Isaiah 55:1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. 5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee. 6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

The True Vine
John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

This is a very plain description of caring for grapes (or roses). Deadwood hurts a bush or vine. God has created these plants so that pruning deadwood makes them come alive and send out more roots. Amateurs do not like to prune, but experienced gardeners know that pruning brings life.

Deadwood is pruned away and destroyed, because old plant material harbors disease. Productive branches are also pruned, to make them even more fruitful.
Plants flower and fruit. They fruit and set seed, bringing them to a more dormant state. If a productive plant is pruned, it will bear even more fruit.

When we grew edible pod peas, we had more and more as we picked them. The vines loved being picked, so they produced peas until we could not stand to think about them.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

The productive pruning Jesus addresses is absolution. When we hear the Law and Gospel, we realize our sinful state and our need for the Savior. Christ brings Himself to us through the Word and Sacrament. That produces the fruits of the Spirit.

KJV Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

The Solution
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

These two verses answer the question everyone asks – How can we enjoy these promised blessings?

There is no program, nothing new, nothing required as a virtue or strength in man.

The Means of Grace will accomplish everything. The old motto is still true – “Apply yourself to the Word, and the Word to yourself.”

Notice the divine promise – He who abides in Me and I in him, he will be very fruitful. (My translation) There is even a Promise within the Promise. When we abide in Christ through the Word, He abides in us. The verb means literally – remains in us, stays with us. How can we be unchanged when Jesus stays with us?

The warning is also there – Without Me you can do nothing. We can do everything with Him (according to His purpose) and nothing without Him.

That makes the program clear.

Lenski said, many decades ago – Fads come and go. The Church is built only upon the Word of God.

When fads take away the Word, and place an emphasis on man, the individual is removed from the True Vine.

I can tell that from the mocking, sarcastic, and obscene comments I get on the blog (mostly blocked) about the Means of Grace. There the Word is having an effect – in hardening hearts. But since they keep coming back, some may be converted by the Word.

Results of Shunning the Word
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

I have said before, I have seen many people shipwreck themselves by abandoning the Word. Here is a clear presentation on eternal punishment for those who abandon the Word. Repentance is possible at any time before death. God will rush to welcome the Prodigal Son. As long as we live, it is never too late to have true sorrow for sin and faith in the Gospel Promises.

Even More Promises
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Here is the great Promise I mentioned on Sunday. After building our faith with Gospel Promises, Jesus also declares God will answer prayers. This is the clearest and best motivation to pray. Being fruitful in the faith glorifies God the Father.