Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Fibonacci numbers are found in petal numbers, spirals, and Bach's music.

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #536 Awake My Soul 3.28
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 6:19-23
The Gospel Mark 8:1-0
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #36 Now Thank We 3.40

The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage, But Faith

The Hymn #316 O Living Bread 3.45
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 #354 In the Cross 3.84

KJV Romans 6:19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV Mark 8:1 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

Seventh Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in the wilderness didst by Thy Son abundantly feed four thousand men besides women and children with seven loaves and a few small fishes: We beseech Thee, graciously abide among us with Thy blessing, and keep us from covetousness and the cares of this life, that we may seek first Thy kingdom and Thy righteousness, and in all things needful for body and soul, experience Thine ever-present help; through Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Opposite of Fear Is Not Courage But Faith

The theme of this sermon is from Luther, who always preached about faith.

This miracle is familiar to everyone. The rationalists have always tried to explain it away, as they did so many other parts of the New Testament. People shared their food after hiding it away – a remarkable feat after spending three days with Jesus. They stored so much away that they had more leftovers than anyone could imagine. Such a miracle of sharing, the rationalists tell us. No wonder the rationalists also try to figure out how to live in luxury while denying the message of the Bible, yet many manage to do exactly that.

First we notice that Jesus anticipated the needs of the crowd before they asked. That is a common message of the Bible, even though we forget. God is answering our prayers before we begin to ask. He cares for those who never acknowledge Him.

For believers, there is this promise:

KJV Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

I recently wrote that to a client, who lost his business after 20 years of running a Christian bookstore. The next day a long-time acquaintance started to cry when he said his son’s house was in foreclosure due to double-job losses (his and his wife’s).

These are evil times for everyone, and more troubles seem to be rising each day.

Jesus revealed in this miracle that God provides miraculous abundance through His Word. The Kingdom of God is not based upon material needs but spiritual needs. Nevertheless, God consoles us with His promises so that we do not abandon the Kingdom to provide for ourselves out of fear and anxiety.

This miracle nurtures our faith, so we can see how God can provide whatever He wants.

Children have the faith Jesus taught as ideal. They simply trust their parents to provide and never wonder about all the complexities involved. I am not sure we understand either. All the financial experts write that they were caught flat-footed, and they know far more than I can imagine.

Faith is constantly urged by the Scriptures and naturally in all of Luther’s sermons. As he pointed out so often, the opposite of fear is not courage (a virtue among the philosophers) but faith.

False teachers are always fearful, so they make doubly-sure they have all the power, authority, and money. They are afraid people will find out what they really believe, so they hide their doctrine.

False teachers often hide behind others, so they are not found out, because they are afraid of the consequences.

False teachers want to strike out against the Word of God, but they are afraid to do that openly, so they find ways of appearing pious and holy while they undermine the Word.

Faith conquers fear, so we should not look to possessing more courage. That is, we should not look inwardly and try to conjure up inner strength, but look to the Word of God for nurturing our faith in Him.

Anxiety and fear are the result of trusting in ourselves and relying on our experiences. The disciples did that when they were in the boat with Jesus as the storm kicked up. There is no way to describe the terror caused by a storm on a vast inland sea like the Sea of Galilee. Everything is black. The waves rise up and crash down with enormous power. The lack of light means total confusion about land, sea, and safety. The disciples relied on their expertise and faith disappeared. Jesus let them be terrified to show them what it meant to be with the Savior and to have the Savior with them. He silenced the sea. He walked on the water – still an expression for divine power.

Again, when the disciples knew there were no fish to be netted, Jesus spoke the Word and their boats were swamped with a miraculous catch of fish.

The answer is not in figuring it out, because we cannot. These mysteries are revealed to believers and hidden from unbelievers, who think they are foolishness.

The answer is relying on God and casting our cares upon Him.

KJV 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished [experienced] in your brethren that are in the world.

What was true of the disciples is also true for us.

When they faced the crucifixion of their Master, they once again fell prey to fear and anxiety, running away (except for John and the women at the cross). They were still in great anxiety after the Resurrection, when Jesus came to them. They were still in a locked room, not only the first time (Easter Sunday) but also the next Sunday (Doubting Thomas Sunday).

In each circumstance described and many others, Jesus allowed them to feel the depths of fear, despair, and anxiety so He could reveal His love, power, and compassion. Each display of love and divine power increased their faith. Their faith was confirmed and strengthened again in the post-resurrection appearances, which the 500 shared together and separately in some cases. They could admonish and encourage one another because of those many revelations of Jesus’ power and compassion.

It would be foolish to say a Christian believer never worries, never experiences anxiety. We take a certain state for granted and stop being thankful about God’s material blessings. When those blessings disappear, our anxieties rise up like storm clouds and darken our perception of everything. Fear can cause a kind of paralysis – as if we are saying, “What’s the use? Everything is beyond my control.”

If we look back we can see how many different ways God has turned bad events into blessings. We can only see them in retrospect, seldom at the time. As I have mentioned, I never wanted to live in a big city, but we landed in Cleveland with a baby and then two. That was the best place for the medical issues we faced in the next two years. Later, Cleveland seemed to be perfect, for all its flaws.

Difficulties should make us grateful, although mustering thanks to God for them at the time seems a real challenge. Spiritual difficulties make us spiritually strong. Other difficulties build character. If I want help from someone, I go to an individual who has gone through a lot. As Luther said, unless that person has experienced Anfectungen (onslaughts), he is no help to me. And then, in due time, we have something to offer people, after learning from the spiritual wisdom of others, offering some ourselves from the Word and the Confessions.

After all, what does a Trust Fund Baby know? How to relax from a winter vacation by taking a summer vacation. The truth is – very few people offer much when they have been given everything.

In the area of Christian doctrine, the times of turmoil develop the best hymns, confessions, and books. When people simply sit around and praise themselves for being orthodox, they have nothing to offer. The Book of Concord did not come from a self-satisfied seminary faculty but from an era of Muslim terror (Turks at the gates of Vienna) and religious persecution – dungeons, the stake, exile.

Lack of thankfulness to God is a great sin, because it is akin to lack of faith. Not being thankful and instead blaming God is just like thinking God wishes evil upon us. He does not. He is so powerful that He turns evil into good, as He did with the crucifixion of His only Son. We only have to wait for God to accomplish His purpose in His time.


"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."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 355.
"This is going through closed doors, when He comes into the heart through the Word, not breaking nor displacing anything. For when the Word of God comes, it neither injures the conscience, nor deranges the understanding of the heart and the external senses; as the false teachers do who break all the doors and windows, breaking through like thieves, leaving nothing whole and undamaged, and perverting, falsifying and injuring all life, conscience, reason, and the senses. Christ does not do thus."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 355.
"Hence I send you into the world as my Father hath sent me; namely, that every Christian should instruct and teach his neighbor, that he may also come to Christ. By this, no power is delegated exclusively to popes and bishops, but all Christians are commanded to profess their faith publicly and also to lead others to believe."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for He Himself came with this office and the external Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 359.
"Now God drives us to this by holding the law before us, in order that through the law we may come to a knowledge of ourselves. For where there is not this knowledge, one can never be saved. He that is well needs no physician; but if a man is sick and desires to become well, he must know that he is weak and sick, otherwise he cannot be helped."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 370.
"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.

"Reformed theologians, in order to support their denial of the illocalis modus subsistendi of Christ's human nature, have sought, in their exposition of John 20, an opening in the closed doors, or a window, or an aperture in the roof or in the walls, in order to explain the possibility of Christ's appearance in the room where the disciples were assembled."
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950, II, p. 127.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

The Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #361 O Jesus King 4.1
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 6:3-11
The Gospel Matthew 5:20-26
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #123 Our God Our Help 4.3

Pharisees and Righteousness

The Hymn #371 Jesus Thy Blood 4.6
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 Beautiful Savior 4.24

KJV Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Sixth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us, our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin, that we never in this life can be without sinful lust and concupiscence; therefore we beseech Thee, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Thy Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Thy word, abide by it, and thus by Thy grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Pharisees and Righteousness

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

I have been re-reading Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan. John Bunyan read Luther constantly and focused his allegory on sin, salvation, works, and the temptations of the believers.
Each character has a name describing a condition or virtue. Some of the bad ones are funny. Pliable is easily persuaded but never makes up his own mind. When they fall into the Slough of Despond, Pliable is no longer willing to journey to the Eternal City.

Worldly Wise convinces Christian to leave the correct path and go to a city where things will be much easier for him. His family will join him. People go to church. He will no longer have a heavy burden to carry. He is being led to abandon the cross and enjoy what the world admires – morality and righteousness based on works.

Many people fall into the same temptation, to follow some kind of religion where works are the basis for salvation. Believers are tempted to abandon the cross, which is that burden associated with the Word. After all, works religions are admired by everyone. Salvation through Christ alone is universally panned and mocked. Needless to say, false teachers always want to take shelter in Christianity while turning it into a works religion.

Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees…”

I heard Hybels of Willow Creek preach on that topic. He did not know about the bridge (the Means of Grace) which brings the righteousness of Christ to us. Therefore, he emphasized works – being a servant, doing the menial jobs around the church, and so forth. Their Willow Creek Connection presentation emphasized all the jobs they had for people to do. However, Hybels blasted the members at this Sneaker Service for not being at the Wednesday communion service – “where we really worship.”

Jesus endured the cross because He offered true righteousness, received in faith.

In contrast, the Scribes and Pharisees offered their own righteousness, based upon rigid adherence to their own laws and traditions. These traditions were connected with the Torah, but distantly. Like all human traditions, the latest version was normative while the Word of God was ignored. It is easy to say, “This is an eternal truth,” if someone starts with the latest version and works backwards.

To say, “Your righteousness means nothing” is Law preaching, and it stirs up wrath. To say that “Everything done in faith in Christ glorifies God” is mystifying to unbelievers. Those statements alone are enough to create wrath and confusion.

The Law stirs up the knowledge of sin and wrath. As Luther wrote, Jesus was not crucified for anything else that saying His righteousness saved while the Pharisees’ did not.

Jesus was not crucified for being a sinner, a revolutionary, or a social reformer. He was crucified for being exactly what the Torah revealed about the Messiah – He was wounded for our transgressions. By His stripes we are healed.

The Word is the primary instrument for bringing this righteousness to people. The Word slays pretensions and discerns all our thoughts and motives. The Word brings the comfort of the Gospel to people who have had their innermost thoughts revealed and exposed through the Law.

The greatest possible comfort is to realize that salvation by works is utter falsehood. One perfectionist said, “I know I am not perfect. That is why I appreciate the Gospel.”

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian had a heavy burden that he had to carry – his sins. He was looking for a way to get rid of it. After being deceived by Worldly Wise and admonished by the Evangelist, he saw the Cross - with Jesus on it. His burden fell off his back—of its own accord—and tumbled into the empty grave, which was nearby.

On his journey to the Eternal City, Christian found himself constantly refreshed by the Word. Still, he encountered many problems along the way. At one point he was cast into a dungeon, much like Bunyan himself. At the time Bunyan must have wondered how he could do anything worthwhile in a tiny prison cell. Christian found in his pocket a set of keys – the Promises of God, and that released him from the Castle of Gloom. So Bunyan must have found those same Promises a release and a blessing during his multiple imprisonments. No wonder people devoured his books.

In a world of works, people look for works that the world will admire. They carve their names onto bridges. They buy libraries to be named after them. They create foundations with their names, just so everyone knows who gave the money.

In God’s Kingdom, His Name is glorified by everything done in faith. Believers are constantly energized by the Gospel Promises to be fruitful in many different ways. The opportunities present themselves because they are God-given, starting with our own families. One district leader said, “I didn’t raise my kids. I was too busy. My wife did that.” In retirement he found that the organization he worshiped had abandoned him. I wonder how many lost moments with his children were repaid in various ways.

Nothing is less valuable to the world than time with children, but nothing benefits the parents and children more than that time. The Gospel bears fruit first at home. Luther put it best when he said, “What the world hates, God loves. What God loves, the world hates.” So we should not worry about what the world loves, except to note that it is loathsome to God.

God has created instruments to bring His grace and forgiveness to us. He chose us and invited us through the Gospel Promises to be a part of His Kingdom, children of God, brothers with Christ.

Justification by Faith - God's Declaration of Righteousness
"Nowhere in the Bible is any man constituted or declared righteous ‘without faith, before faith.’” R. C. H. Lenski, Romans, Augsburg Publishing House: Minneapolis, 1963, p. 382. Romans 5:19-20.

"They [the false teachers] fared like a man who looks through a colored glass. Put before such a man whatever color you please, he sees no other color than that of the glass. The fault is not that the right color is not put before him but that his glass is colored differently, as the word of Is. 6:9 puts it: You will see, he says, and yet you will not see it."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 644.

"To this incline your ears, and be persuaded that God speaks through men and forgives you your sins; this, of course, requires faith."Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 200.

From Thy Strong Word:
"It is a faithful saying that Christ has accomplished everything, has removed sin and overcome every enemy, so that through Him we are lords over all things. But the treasure lies yet in one pile; it is not yet distributed nor invested. Consequently, if we are to possess it, the Holy Spirit must come and teach our hearts to believe and say: I, too, am one of those who are to have this treasure. When we feel that God has thus helped us and given the treasure to us, everything goes well, and it cannot be otherwise than that man's heart rejoices in God and lifts itself up, saying: Dear Father, if it is Thy will to show toward me such great love and faithfulness, which I cannot fully fathom, then will I also love Thee with all my heart and be joyful, and cheerfully do what pleases Thee. Thus, the heart does not now look at God with evil eyes, does not imagine He will cast us into hell, as it did before the Holy Spirit came...." Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 279. Pentecost Sunday. John 14:23-31.

"Faith is that my whole heart takes to itself this treasure. It is not my doing, not my presenting or giving, not my work or preparation, but that a heart comforts itself, and is perfectly confident with respect to this, namely, that God makes a present and gift to us, and not we to Him, that He sheds upon us every treasure of grace in Christ." Apology of the Augsburg Confession, IV. #48. Of Justification. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 135. Heiser, p. 36.

"These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved." Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, III. #10. Of the Righteousness of Faith before God. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 919. Tappert, p. 541. Heiser, p. 250.

"For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain ourselves."The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #38, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 689. Tappert, p. 415. Heiser, p. 194.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

The Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #246 Holy, Holy, Holy 3.35
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 Peter 3:8-15
The Gospel Luke 5:1-11
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #26 Praise to the Lord 3.1

Basics of the Christian Faith

The Hymn #307 Draw Nigh 3.72
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 #283 God’s Word 3.90

Fifth Sunday After Trinity
O Jesus Christ, Thou Son of the living God, who hast given us Thy holy word, and hast bountifully provided for all our temporal wants, we confess that we are unworthy of all these mercies, and that we have rather deserved punishment: But we beseech Thee, forgive us our sins, and prosper and bless us in our several callings, that by Thy strength we may be sustained and defended, now and forever, and so praise and glorify Thee eternally, Thou who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

KJV Luke 5:1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Basics of the Christian Faith

Someone asked me to send a written sermon, so I decided to outline the basics of the Christian faith.

Judaism Completed in Christianity
First of all, there is not a real difference between true Judaism and genuine Christianity. Judaism is completed in the Promises of God fulfilled in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. That is why many people from the earliest days have believed in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. If 39 books of the Bible point to a Redeemer, and only One Person is described in all those prophecies, then we cannot separate Judaism from Christianity.

The Christian faith teaches the doctrine of Creation by the Word, as described in Genesis 1 and many other places in the Scriptures.

KJV Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Creation means that everything we see is from God and has a purpose. Luther wondered about flies having a purpose, but now medical science has discovered the value of maggots in cleansing wounds without harming the patient. More importantly, every living soul has a purpose from the moment of conception.

Natural Law - Creation
We know there is right and wrong because of Creation. The principles of the universe were instilled in God’s Creation. That has an important bearing on our understanding of the Law. In Hebrew, Law is Torah, which really means teaching. Parents know what it means to teach children right and wrong, always with a loving, positive outcome in mind. Since God created, He knows even more about what is good for us.

KJV Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the Torah (teaching) of the LORD; and in his Torah doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The Law
God gave the Law on Mt. Sinai to teach us our relationship to Him (the first three Commandments) and our relationship to each other (the last seven commandments). This Torah was made even more concise with: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind – and your neighbor as yourself.” This is found in the Old Testament and New Testament as well.

KJV Deuteronomy 11:13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,

KJV Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

KJV Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

The Law was revealed for our good. It is good, spiritual, and useful, as Paul wrote. The Law is diagnostic, like an X-ray. The Law tells us where we are broken, hurting, and sinful, but it cannot heal us. An X-ray cannot heal us, and the Law cannot make us better. My wife and I were laughing about a “Bible study group” she tried to attend once. It had more rules than there are books in the Bible. I said, “Perfection through the Law – and it never works.”

The Gospel
Because the Law is good but limited, God also gave us sinful, weak people the Gospel, beginning at Genesis 3:15, when Adam and Eve (real people, not symbols) were expelled from Paradise. God promised them the Savior, whose feet would be bruised (crucifixion) but Who would crush the head of Satan. All the Promises and blessings of the Bible are Gospel.

KJV 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.

The Trinity
There was no development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Genesis 1 indicates the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and John 1 spells out this truth with great clarity. There are many references to the Trinity in the Old Testament, such as the three-fold Aaronic blessing, and “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts” in Isaiah. The Trinity is even clearer in Hebrew than our English versions of the Old Testament. “The Jewish Trinity” by Natan lists all those occurrences. One is clear in English, “Let us make man in Our image.”

KJV Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

KJV Isaiah 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

KJV Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Jesus, Son of God, Messiah
Isaiah 53 revealed that the Messiah would suffer and die for the sins of the people. When children hear Isaiah 53 and they are asked who this person is, they always say, “Jesus.” That is clear to us now, but it was not obvious until Jesus was crucified and rose again, triumphant over death.

KJV Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

KJV Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Psalm 22
The 22nd Psalm teaches us about the crucifixion, and those details were fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross.

KJV Psalm 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

Faith in the Messiah
Faith in the crucified Messiah is expressed in Psalm 23, while the New Testament version is found in John 10.

Isaiah also portrays the Messiah as the Good Shepherd:

KJV Isaiah 40:11
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are with young.

KJV Psalm 23:1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

KJV John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

How Are We Forgiven?
Justification is God’s declaration that we are forgiven all our sins. This takes place when an individual trusts in the Promises of God. Abraham believed in the Messiah, “and he was justified by faith.”

KJV Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

KJV Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

The Gospel is summarized perfectly in John 3:16 –

KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Eternal Life
Everlasting life was earned by Christ and is graciously given to all who believe in Him.

KJV John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

KJV John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Good Works
Salvation is either through the Law or the Gospel. The Bible emphasizes good works throughout. However, good works are the result of salvation, forgiveness of sin. Good works benefit our neighbor – they do not appease God. The more we hear the Gospel and grasp the grace God offers us so freely, the more abundant the fruits of the Spirit will be.

KJV Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Much more could be said about the Means of Grace, which I have discussed many times before. There is really only one Christian doctrine. For our convenience, we break it down into many points, but it remains one unified Truth, revealed by God in His inerrant Word.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

The Holy Spirit never works apart from the Word and Sacraments.
Art by Norma Boeckler.

The Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #260 O Lord Look Down 1.4
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 8:18-23
The Gospel Luke 6:36-42
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #225 Come Holy Spirit 1.39

The Bridge to God’s Gracious Love

The Hymn #261 Lord Keep Us 1.93
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 #452 The Son of God 1.10

KJV Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
KJV Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.

Fourth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, who art merciful, and through Christ didst promise us, that Thou wilt neither judge nor condemn us, but graciously forgive us all our sins, and abundantly provide for all our wants of body and soul: We pray Thee, that by Thy Holy Spirit Thou wilt establish in our hearts a confident faith in Thy mercy, and teach us also to be merciful to our neighbor, that we may not judge or condemn others, but willingly forgive all men, and, Judging only ourselves, lead blessed lives in Thy fear, through Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Bridge to God’s Gracious Love

Every Scripture lesson is a opportunity to dwell on some aspect of God’s gracious love for us.

The opening of today’s Gospel is a good example. We normally associate commands with the Law.

One person asked a boy, “What does it mean when your parents say – Share?”

The boy said, “That means – give it to your brother – right now.”
Today’s lesson begins another way – Be merciful, even as your heavenly Father is merciful.

KJV Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

This spiritual advice is based upon the Gospel of forgiveness, which permeates all of Scripture. There are six items in all:

1. Be merciful, as your Father is.
2. Judge not, and you will not be judged.
3. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned.
4. Forgive and you will be forgiven.
5. Give and it will be given to you in overflowing amounts.
6. The measure you use is the measure used for you.

Luther has many good comments on this passage in the low-cost sermon set. This lesson concerns faith and works, so Luther said we ascend to God with Christ alone, through faith.

So many people begin with justification by works – and that is especially true of the clergy. “I did this” and “I did that.” Even worse – “My family did this or that.” One person went even further by excusing bad leadership this way – “Her family has done so much for the synod.”

Christianity is the only religion where God serves man instead of the reverse. The sheep do not seek a shepherd. The Shepherd seeks them. Isaiah says:

KJV Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.

Justification by our works only leads to all the sins of the flesh, often begun with covetousness, evil thoughts and malice. Since we cannot do anything for God, who does everything for us, works are directed toward our neighbor.

Mercy is not godly mercy when we do good things for our friends and those who can return our favors. Mercy is defined by patience during difficulties, by forbearance toward the shortcomings for others, since we deserve nothing but condemnation from God, who shows us mercy through Christ. If mothers gave out equal justice, for example, children would not be fed, clothed, and delivered to their appointments because children are never as thankful as they might be for all the benefits they take for granted.

So are we in our relationship to God. We are never as thankful to Him as we might be, and that is often the root of our problems. We ascribe all benefits to our virtue and hard work, all difficulties as the fault of God for being lax in His duties. Luther called the cross (hardship from faithfulness to the Word) – the precious, holy cross. That is difficult to comprehend; yet it is true. Bearing the cross is God’s plan to purify our faith, so we see the cross of Christ more clearly.

In struggling to explain the problems with Pietism, I keep coming back to the brief definition from Hoenecke: “They confuse sanctification (good works) with justification and make sanctification the cause of justification.” That is so concise and accurate that it requires explanation.

Pietism came from a Reformed concept which Spener (a Lutheran) copied – having groups where piety was encouraged through prayer and Bible study. The diagnosis was accurate – Lutherans had plenty of problems at that time, including a lack of Scriptural understanding. If accounts are accurate, the clergy barely studied the Scriptures at seminary. Instead they focused on philosophy and scholarly disputes. One man lectured on Isaiah and quit after the first chapter (Schmid) because no one was interested.

They lost track of the bridge – the Means of Grace – as the way in which Christ comes to us. Instead they taught others to rely on the experience of God’s grace, without the bridge. So they looked to themselves and their emotions as the test. Oh yes, now I feel forgiven and I am secure in the faith. In contrast, the Word is our foundation and its truth remains, no matter how we feel at the emotions. If we are saved by our emotional experience of joy then we are also condemned by our emotional experience of dread, condemnation, and guilt.

Losing the Biblical Means will always multiple the false bridges – such as the cell group, the amount of prayer, the agony of prayer, the “breakthrough of grace” and the good works. Pietism caused people to leave the church because the local congregation was “full of hypocrites.” One man told me that, so I asked him, “What is a hypocrite?” He said, “Someone who says one thing and does another.” I said, “That makes me a hypocrite.” He said, lowering his head, “I guess I am too.” He came to church from that time on, with his wife.

The separatism of Pietism was—and is--really spiritual pride, as if belonging to the conventicle made people free from sin (sanctification causing justification). My theology professor belonged to one such group and to a Lutheran church. The group was called, in German, Separated Christianity. He would say things like, “Most churches have trouble raising money. We just raised $40,000 without any effort.” The superior attitude just oozed.

This may sound like condemning the faults we all have, but I am trying to show how taking away the bridge to Christ magnifies those problems. If someone is superior from being in a cell group, then that superior attitude is going to come through in malicious gossip and arrogance toward neighbors.

This is what Jesus is aiming at in His spiritual advice. Since we cannot give good works to God, our good works are the fruits of faith in Christ and directed toward our neighbor.

We have all had experiences of never doing anything right, having someone ready to pounce, even if their condemnation is a figment of their imagination. That is what happens when people rest on their own good works and righteousness and do not rely on the mercy of God in Christ.

The opposite is patience, forbearance, and understanding. When people are motivated by the Gospel, these fruits are abundant.

KJV John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The purpose of the Bible is to produce faith in what God has already done. That takes people from a state of condemnation to one in which God declares they are justified by faith.

The importance of faith has been misunderstood by those who do not grasp the order of salvation. The Biblical meaning of faith is trust in the Promises of God, specifically in the crucifixion of Christ as the atoning sacrifice, the reconciliation.

The question is not whether this is true, but whether someone continues to trust in it. Therefore, God provided a variety of ways to build that trust, the visible and invisible Word. He also lays the cross on each believer, to purify faith, remove the dross, and remind us of how much the Old Adam still reigns in us.

Blind Guides
At first the second part of this lesson seems to be taking off in another direction, but it is connected with the first part. When people trust in their own merit instead of Christ, they glory in their works and become blind guides. Several ministers tried to verify their worth this way:

1. “My congregation quadrupled in size while I was there.” (The Church Doctor)
2. “My congregation doubled its income in a few years.”
My question in each case was – “Then why aren’t you still there?” The missing statement was – God has worked through the faithful application of the Word. Paul did not count members or income. He said the only requirement was that a steward be found faithful.

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.

If a church sees its worth in material terms, it will not value spiritual treasure. Any metro area will reveal glorious church structures built during the glory days of that neighborhood. Doubtless the dedication day was full of grand feelings of permanent glory, never dreaming that the structure would become an albatross for 60 members years later. Other dangers lurk in worshiping material success, such as having millions in endowment funds.

One of the rich congregations, Glide Memorial, became famous for its outrages, some of which cannot be listed. An innovative minister there removed the cross from the sanctuary – certainly symbolic of where that church was headed.

Blind guides include those outwardly successful ministers who say they are blessed because of large movie screens, expensive sound systems, and short-term memberships among the hordes of people who flock for the entertainment. These members are called “scaffolding” because they help the superstar minister reach a higher level.

Blind guides point toward themselves rather than Christ. They may talk about Jesus, but they take away the bridge to Him, leaving everyone confused. They offer a Christian life but one built around idols.

The treasures of the Gospel are constantly available through the Word and Sacraments.


"Whoever comes to faith can only say that the Holy Spirit comes when and where and to whom He pleases at the time He pleases. He comes when and where He pleases, and also gives a person as many gifts as He pleases." What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 665.

"That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake. They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparation and works." Augsburg Confession, V. #1-2. The Ministry. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 45. Tappert, p. 31. Heiser, p. 13.

"He [Paul] thus extols co-laborers that they [the Corinthians] may not despise the external Word as if they were not in need of it or knew it well enough. For although God might accomplish all things inwardly by the Spirit, without the external Word, He has no intention of doing so. He wants to employ preachers as assistants and co-laborers and to accomplish His purposes through their word when and where it pleases Him. Since, then, preachers have the office, name, and honor of being God's assistants, no man is so learned or holy that he may neglect or despise the poorest preaching; for he does not know when the hour will come in which God will perform His work in him through the preachers." What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1959 III, p. 1118. W 17, II, 179; SL 12, 436; sermon #3572; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10