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.

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