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February 25, 2018 Bible Study

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Don’t Be Ashamed!

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Second Sunday in Lent                             Trinity Lutheran Church

25 February 2018                                       Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Mark 8:27-38

 

Ashamed of Jesus? Embarrassed by Jesus and of His words? Do you think you have better words than Jesus? Peter and the apostles are all red-faced. After all, Jesus harps non-stop about having to suffer, be rejected, killed and then rise again after three days. What kind of Christ is that? What kind of Christ would talk like that? It’s as if He has a death wish. A suicidal mania. It’s like He has some kind of mental illness. Suffer, die and rise again? Good grief! Should those things ever happen to the Christ? Can you have a kingdom of God like that? Can God save sinners and an entire sinful world in that way? Can you trust that kind of Jesus? Or are you ashamed of Him and His words?

 

Peter is. Jesus embarrasses him.   So the apostle tries to take control, have the say so and save Jesus from this pathetic vision that He’s cast for Himself. The apostle will have no more suffering, rejection, murder and rising from the dead sermon. He’s going to nip all that in the bud! He categorically gives Jesus a thoroughgoing rebuke. A verbal tongue lashing! The apostle has better words than the Lord so that he won’t be embarrassed anymore. “Stop it Jesus! You’re embarrassing us. In fact, you’re embarrassing yourself. We won’t let you be the Christ that way. You’ll be a laughingstock. We just can’t have that. You will not do a Holy Week, a Good Friday and an Easter Sunday. I forbid it!”

 

When you have better words than the Lord regarding His doing the salvation of sinners job – when you insist that Jesus cannot do a Good Friday or an Easter Sunday, well … you’ve become an instrument of the devil. “Get behind me Satan!” That’s Jesus’ quick response to red-faced Peter and his shameful posse. “Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting you mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

You’re salvation depends on Jesus categorically being the Christ in the way that He preaches it. The way He says it. Suffering. Rejection. Killed. Rising on the third day. He is the Christ and He is the Christ only in that way – AS HE SAYS! He has the say so! Don’t pull a Peter and try to silence Jesus when He salvationally preaches suffering, rejection, dying and rising.

 

After all, the suffering, rejection, dying and rising Jesus the Christ does FOR YOU! He willingly sacrifices Himself into death FOR YOU. That’s the cross. It’s what God salvifically promised Abraham in Genesis 17. Good Friday and Easter Sunday Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promise. All nations are blessed – SAVED – only by the descendant of Abraham: JESUS. St. Paul preached it this way: “Since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus God gives you salvation. You are reconciled to God. “Justified by his blood.” “Saved … from the wrath of God.” There’s no doubt about it. That’s why Jesus kept preaching it over and over again. Mark records the Passion Sermon of Jesus three times. So that you believe it! And by believing it you have it! Perhaps Mark does that exactly because Peter, when push comes to shove, when what Jesus preached happens, emphatically denies Jesus three times.

 

Does Jesus still embarrass you? Are you ashamed to be in His presence? Well, you’d better hear the rest of what Jesus the Christ says. He says that to be His disciple – which you are – it means that you will suffer. Again, listen to Jesus. Let Him have the say so. “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

 

Jesus makes His way to the cross the pattern of your way. You, His disciples, are to be ready to “lose your life” in the service of Christ in order to “save your life.” Yes, it doesn’t get any more radical than that. “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”   To be a Christian means that you deny yourself! You don’t indulge yourself. You don’t trust yourself. You don’t worship yourself. You trust only in Jesus. That means denying self. Dying to self. Dying to your own words that contradict His! It’s costly to follow Jesus. It’s costly to confess that He alone is the Lord. You may lose a lot. Maybe even your life.

 

Last week Nic Smith and Michelle Platt promised at their confirmation that they would be faithful in their confession of Jesus as their Savior and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from Him. They promised to hear His Word in all its forms: the Bible, the preaching, the absolution, and the Supper. That’s quite astonishing! Really it is!

 

After all, how many have stood in front of this altar over the last 125 years, made the same promises, call themselves Christian but are unwilling to suffer anything at all? I can’t count. There’s too many who are not willing to suffer the loss of their sin in order to give it to Jesus. Not willing to die to their own words when they contradict His. Not willing to suffer any kind of inconvenience for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in order to hear Jesus’ words and to eat His most holy Body and Blood in the Sacrament. After all, they might be late for something. That, of course, would be the end of their world. Too many are not willing to take the time and make the effort to get out of bed or to make plans accordingly in order to hear Jesus’ salvific Word. It’s just too inconvenient. Jesus says, “Eat and drink,” but too many tell me: “Life is just too hectic Pastor!” Why? Because their words are always better than Lord’s! Aren’t they?

 

And here is precisely where the church, the church in general, and our congregation here at Trinity, is at the fork in the road. We are at a place of salvific decision. Which road will we take?  Will we faithfully confess Jesus as the Good Friday and Easter Sunday Christ or will we compromise or deny Him in the face of any little aggravation, annoyance, nuisance, embarrassment, suffering — bearing the cross? Will we choose worldly success and the justification of the self at all costs or we will choose the way of suffering for Jesus’ sake? Will we simply be a religious country club for the comfortable or will we be the church Jesus founded on His suffering, death and resurrection? Will we receive Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, for salvation, Sunday after Sunday or will we give outsiders the impression that this Jesus isn’t worth our time? Like we’re embarrassed to be in His presence to hear His words? We will deny ourselves and die to our sin? Or will we continue to indulge ourselves to death with puny cares – even to eternal death?

 

The world and our old Adam promise everything. Success. Glory. Wealth. You name it. All you have to do is one little thing. Deny Jesus. “Save you life!” the world shouts. “Think of yourself!” “Reach your potential and enjoy a life of ease!” the world and the old Adam advise. “Deny Jesus. It’s no big deal to be ashamed of His words. Go with your words. They’re better!”  

 

No they’re not! Jesus is quite clear. He knew the temptations that would come to us. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” The church or the Christian that is not willing to bear the cross, “to suffer all, even death” – the church or the Christian that would rather than fall away from confessing Jesus – has simply ceased to be the church and be a Christian.

 

The way of discipleship is the hard way of the wood, the nails, and the blood. The cross is the difference between the disciple and the crowds – the church and the world. The crowds followed Jesus only when it was “cool” to do so. Only a few disciples followed Jesus to His death. Many today claim to be Christian, but only a handful take up His cross. Only a few cling to Jesus who promises forgiveness in Word and sacrament.

 

Suffering is a mark of being a Christian. If you refuse to take up your cross and submit to suffering at the hands of men for Christ’s sake and for the gospel’s sake, you forfeit your fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow Him. However, if you lose your life in His service and carry your cross, you will find your life again in the fellowship of the cross with Jesus. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed — ashamed of Jesus, His words, His cross and all the offence and scandal that go with it.

 

I remind you one more time of what Jesus says to you today. He preaches: “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life for my sake will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”   In other words, love your life apart from Jesus and His promises of salvation and you will lose it forever. Lose your self-justifying life now, in the wounds, death and resurrection of Jesus and you will live forever. To follow Jesus means nothing less than to suffer and die with Jesus. And to live a new life! That’s the life of FAITH that clings to Him in His Word and sacrament Sunday after Sunday.

 

There you are safe and sound in His Good Friday death. “It is finished!” You’re safe and sound forever in His rising from the dead on the Third Day. The most difficult suffering has been done – BY JESUS – FOR YOU! You are died for! You have peace with God. You are reconciled to Him. You have access to Him through Jesus. What remains is easy – your daily death to sin, trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and leading a holy life according to Jesus Word. And then on the Last Day the resurrection of your body from the grave.  St. Paul put is this way in today’s Epistle: “How much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through Christ’s life!” Indeed!

 

In Jesus’ Name.

 

 

James and Hebrews Part Seven

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James and Hebrews Part Six

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The Sweet Salvational Swap – The Lord’s Supper

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Wednesday of Lent 1                                Trinity Lutheran Church

21 February 2018                                      Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

The Passion of Our Lord: The Lord’s Supper

Lenten Theme: The Sweet Salvational Swap!

 

Notice the EXCHANGE or the SWAP that takes place between Jesus and sinners. Everything that sinners are and everything that sinners have – sin and all its hellacious conseqences – Christ takes!   And everything that Jesus is and all that Jesus has – His holiness, perfection and sinlessness –He gives to sinners! What Jesus takes – sin and its damnation – and what Jesus gives in return – His holiness and perfection — is what Jesus does FOR YOU and for your salvation. This is His cup of tea. It is the sweet salvational swap!

 

First, check out all the sinners and all their sin. It’s like we are watching the CBS TV series Criminal Minds! And Jesus is smack dab in the midst of it. It’s like He’s swimming in it. Getting drowned in it. As THE VICTIM of sickening crimes! The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people gather at the palace of the high priest. A back room deal is made. Craftily they make plans to murder innocent Jesus. Judas Iscariot – an apostle – becomes antichrist – in league with Satan – to betray innocent Jesus for some quick cash – thirty pieces of silver. At the Passover Meal in which Jesus institutes the divine gift of the Lord’s Supper the apostles wrangle and bicker about who is the greatest. Ignoring Jesus – His gracious words and service – completely – as they pitifully argue about who is the big dog among them.

 

Loads of sinners and depraved, hellish sin. The religious hot shots plot murder. Premeditated homicide. Judas schemes treachery. His gang of twelve think egotistically about themselves. So curved in on themselves they don’t even notice what Jesus is doing and giving them.

 

In the midst of such sordid sin, catastrophic criminality and the full horror of these sinners, you’d think Jesus should high tail it out of there. Skidaddle. PDQ.

 

Instead, He stays put. Firmly. Resolutely. He, their Lord is their Servant. He serves them. “I am among you as a servant.” He pulls a divine service among sinner! And what a divine service it is! He’s taking all their sin and all its eternal hellish consequences in Himself in order to carry it to the cross. There He will offer Himself as the one and only Sacrifice that atones and answers for all sin and for every sinner. In exchange for all the rot and gunk of the sin Jesus gives or serves up a hefty salvational slice of His innocence and perfection with these words at the Lord’s Supper: “Drink of it, all of you; this my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

 

Then Jesus gets up from the supper, pours water in a basin and begins to wash and dry His disciples’ feet. In exchange for the toxic pollution of their sin Jesus gives them purification. Decontamination. Cleansing. His! With His service of Suffering Servant washing Jesus gives Himself with all that He is and all that He has: the total and complete fellowship and sharing of His perfection, holiness – SALVATION!

 

Peter is shocked. Jesus would do not only such a menial but also scandalous thing? Holy One Jesus would fellowship with Peter’s filth, take Peter’s filth and in return bathe Peter His purity? Unthinkable! So, at first, Peter dares to refuse it. He won’t be given to! The refusal point.  Imagine that! An apostle that will not believe and receive the salvation the Lord is giving Him!  “Lord, do you wash my feet? … You shall never wash my feet.”

 

Jesus lays it on the line with Peter. “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” In other words, “If you refuse my sweet salvational swapping of your sin for my holiness, then you won’t be saved! This is how salvation works Peter! Your sin is mine. My perfection and sinlessness is yours! Heaven depends on Me taking all your sin and answering for it.”  

 

Jesus’ words have their way with Peter. He believes in Jesus who does the sweet salvational swap for Peter and for his salvation. “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”

 

So it is with you too! Your sin does not belong to you any more. All your sin belongs to Jesus. He took it. In His crucified Body on the cross. Your sin and all its damnation is answered for. And more. He has bathed you with His holiness. Washed you with His Good Friday divine and saving Blood. Clothed you with His own righteousness. It’s holy baptism! Baptized into His death. Buried with Christ. Raised with Him for a new life spelled: F-A-I-T-H. Faith that receives the sweet salvational swap especially in the Lord’s Supper every Sunday according to Jesus’ categorical promise: “Drink of it, all of you; this my blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus has swapped out your sin for His forgiveness. How sweet!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

February 18, 2018 Bible Class

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You Will Be Tested

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First Sunday in Lent                                   Trinity Lutheran Church

18 February 2018                                       Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Genesis 22:1-18

 

You want to talk about getting your faith tested? Ever had your faith tested by God? Maybe you have and didn’t even realize it! Sometimes when it happens it’s quite unpleasant. Quite unnerving. Unthinkable. Stretches your faith to the breaking point. The testing sometimes appears to be contrary to God’s nature and His Word. Just ask Abraham.

 

Abraham trusted God. Childless Abraham trusted God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations. Then God gave Abraham and Sarah a son, an only son, Isaac. They loved him deeply. Through this boy the promised Savior of the world would come.

 

Now God tests Abraham’s faith. I’ll say it again: God tests faith! He refines faith in the furnace of suffering and hardship. Like gold in a refiner’s fire. Like steel tempered in a blast furnace. God closes up His hand of blessing tightly and leaves Abraham in the wilderness alone with His naked Word. God dares Abraham to believe that His Word is certain and sure by asking Abraham to do the unthinkable: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

 

Just in case you weren’t listening or fell asleep earlier I’m going to say it again: God tests faith. He tests the faith He creates in you. He shapes and forms it like a master potter at the wheel. Turning a lump of clay into a beautiful vase or bowl. God hardens and strengthens faith the way a coach prepares his team for the championship game. Like a commander prepares his troops for battle. God tests and tempers faith through … SUFFERING AND CROSS. Suffering and cross are written across all three readings today. Jesus is sent into the wilderness to confront Satan. James says that you are blessed as you “remain steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” Abraham is asked by God to make a sacrifice of his only son.

 

A God who tests the very faith He creates, as He did with Abraham, as He does with you, is a troubling God. Unpredictable. Can’t be tamed. Can’t put Him under your control on your agenda. You can’t make Him do things your way. Your way is the way of the easy life. A microwave generation life. No waiting. No pain. No suffering. No sacrifice. No ambiguity. NO TESTING!

 

Incredibly, even when God appears to be Abraham’s worst enemy, the ready-for-the-nursing-home-old-man gets up early in the morning, saddles up the donkeys, takes two of his servants, chops the wood, gets sleepyhead Isaac out of bed and sets out for the mountain! A three-day journey! Probably the longest three days in Abraham’s life! I can’t imagine the agony! It must have been unbearable as he turned over and over in his mind what God said. Was God really asking him to do such a thing? How would God keep His promise that he would be the father of many nations and that through Isaac the Savior of the world would come if he sacrifices Isaac?

 

When they finally come to the mountain did you notice what Abraham said to his servants? “We will worship and then WE will come back to you.” Really? Did he mean that? Or was he just saying that? When he and Isaac get to the top of the mountain the boy asks the obvious question: “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

 

And then comes one of the greatest statements of faith ever recorded in the Bible: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.” That is absolutely marvelous! How God would do that Abraham didn’t know. However, he believed that God would provide the lamb. He risked everything – trusting that God must be true to His promise. That God doesn’t break His promise. That God doesn’t lie! That His Word is sure. That God Himself would provide the sacrifice. Abraham was certain of it.

 

And Abraham was right. He was faithful. He trusted God’s Word even when God appeared to go against His own Word. Even when all he could see was the wood, the altar, the fire and Isaac!

 

Abraham was certain that God would provide the lamb of sacrifice even to the point of tying up his son, placing him on the altar and raising the knife above his head. This must have been terrifying moment. A moment when faith, doubt and perhaps unbelief are locked in an epic struggle – when heaven and hell look indistinguishable from one another.

 

As the knife was raised the angel of the Lord’s voice called out: “Abraham! Abraham!” Abraham’s faith was tested. Isaac was spared. In a thicket there was a ram caught by its horns. The LORD provided the substitute, the sacrifice for Isaac, Abraham’s only beloved son.

 

Now, let’s get right to the point. It’s taken me too long. I’ve been too long-winded. I beg your forgiveness. I know you’ve been getting antsy. So here it is. The story of Abraham and Isaac gives you a picture of your own salvation and what God has done so that you are His. In Abraham we see the love that God the Father has for you. Abraham experienced in his own soul the sorrow and agony of a father who is asked to give up his only beloved son. If there was ever a man who felt in some small measure what went on in the heart of God the Father when He sent His Son into the world to be crucified, it was Abraham.

 

God the Father gave up His only beloved Son FOR YOU! “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all,” (Rom 8). The Father placed His Son Jesus on the wood of the cross. He made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin, to be THE sin offering, THE whole burnt offering, consumed if the fire of God’s wrath against your sin and His burning desire to save you from the hell that your sins deserve.

 

Are you picking up what I’m throwing down? Let me put it this way. As the ram was the substitute for Isaac – Jesus is the substitute FOR YOU. The knife doesn’t go into you. It goes into Jesus! Jesus takes the law’s punishments in your place. Jesus is the Lamb caught on the wood of the cross – pinned there by your sin. God the Father provided the Lamb for sacrifice – His own beloved Son!

 

Follow my finger as I play John the Baptist this morning (as I point to the crucifix) and hear what I preach: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus is the Substitute Sacrifice for sinners. “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” On the mountain of Calvary the Lamb of God slain for sinners was provided – FOR YOU! On the LORD’S mountain, the church, the benefits of His Good Friday death are provided. Given in baptism, absolution and the Lamb’s body and blood in the Supper. The Lord provides. More than you ever expected. More than you ever realized. More than you would ever dare to ask.

 

Finally, as I bring this to a close, I will say it one more time. Nic, Brenda, Michelle, and all the baptized — you will be tested. God will test you. If He’s letting you have a breather at the moment, rejoice and give thanks. However, remember it’s only a breather. The time of testing will come. Count on it. It’s a no-brainer. What the testing will be I can’t say for sure. It may come as a financial hardship or a gargantuan emotional distress.

 

I think that in the near future it’s safe to say that it will be a form of persecution for confessing Jesus as Lord. After all, one of the pretend almighty divinities on the TV show The View recently infallibly called Vice President’s Christianity “a mental illness.” Remember, these are the self-proclaimed most loving and tolerant people.

 

By the way folks – Jesus does talk to you. Every time you read or study the Bible He’s speaking to you. When you go the Sacrament He’s speaking to you. He categorically says: Eat. Drink. It’s my body and my blood. Truly. It is one thing for you to talk to Jesus. It is another thing for Jesus to talk to you. HE DOES! For example, in the Sacrament He says: “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That’s salvational by the way! Many other pretend divinities on TV, social media and capital hill contend that Christianity should be criminalized and outlawed.

 

The testing may come with a serious illness, a difficult marriage, a loss of income, of reputation or of opportunity. It could be the betrayal of a spouse, a child, a friend, or the death of a loved one. It will not be pleasant. Testing never is. It isn’t supposed to be!

 

Nic, Brenda and Michelle, at times God may seem very distant, perhaps even to be against you. You will feel isolated and alone in your time of testing. Even your best friends and family members may avoid you. But I am here to tell you that you have this promise from the Lord through preacher James: “remain steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.”

 

Trust in Jesus and His promise of salvation in the time of testing. Abraham believed it. God provides. He has given His only beloved Son into that Good Friday death for your salvation. He has given you His divine and saving name in baptism. In absolution and preaching He speaks His divine Good Friday forgiveness to you and FOR YOU. So too in the Lord’s Supper – “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The LORD provides. He does it FOR YOU! Trust Him because “he who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mk 16:16) or as Jesus promised it at the beginning of the service today to Nic, Brenda and Michelle, “whoever confesses me before men I will also confess before my Father in heaven.”

 

In the Name of Jesus.