God’s Good Use of You!
28 August 2016 Trinity Lutheran Church
Pentecost 15 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Well, loads and loads from this text. That’s the way it is with the Bible. Always more. The Lord always giving more and more through His Word. And what He gives you today from Hebrews may just repent you to the core and faith you even more in Jesus your Savior.
You are His redeemed, Good Friday-ed, forgiven people. You trust in Jesus alone for salvation. And that’s an out-and-out miracle! You are His new creation that’s spelled F-A-I-T-H. You, the believer, always do battle against your old sinful nature. And there’s always room for improvement when it comes to leading holy lives according to God’s Word. Right? Of course! You know just how hard the battle against your sinful nature is.
In addition, the Lord has good use for you His saved-by-faith-alone people. Here’s what I mean. Faith in Jesus naturally gives birth to works of love. Faith in Christ and love for the neighbor: that’s the Christian life.
So the text from Hebrews today gives you many very practical and down to earth ways in which your faith in Jesus works in your life. Or how Christians are given to live. For the sake of others. Like a little Christ, if you will. I’ll highlight a few points from the text. Are you ready? Ok. Let’s go. Hang on tight. It may be a rough ride in spots.
So the text begins: “Let brotherly love continue.” Yes, faith loves. It’s what faith does. Christians that live by faith in Jesus will show brotherly love to each other and fight against the temptation from your sinful nature to not love, to keep score, keep grudges and withhold forgiveness. A Christian congregation is a family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. So, you, who have experienced the Good Friday love of Christ will naturally love your fellow believers, especially the ones here at Trinity.
You are deeply loved by God in Christ. Loved to death by Jesus on the cross. How could you not love each other? How could you not forgive each other as God has forgiven you? Seriously! Unbelievers saw the early church and declared: “See how they [these Christians] love each other.” I remind you, brothers and sisters, what Jesus said to His disciples in the upper room on the very night He was betrayed: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Sacrificial, selfless love is the outward mark – the outward tattoo of a disciple of Jesus!
In addition, love does not limit itself to the people it knows. The text says that love extends the hand of hospitality to the stranger. As you have been welcomed into God’s house, God’s family, God’s table, so you will open your home, your family and your table to others. In Jesus God has extended the most gracious hospitality to you. You do the same to others in the Name of Jesus.
Before the days of Holiday Inn Express and Motel 6 this was essential. For generations Christians opened their homes to travelling fellow Christians and welcomed them in to their homes and at their tables. They remembered Jesus when He was born. There was no place in the inn for mego-prego Mary, Joseph, and About To Be Born In The Womb Jesus! They were not welcomed let alone cared for! No hospitality for them!
Then the text lets you in on a little secret regarding hospitality. Some, like Abraham that entertained his three guests under the trees at Mamre, have entertained angels without even being aware of it!
Such love extends even to those congregation members that are in prison, to those treated poorly, who are sick or isolated. Why? Here’s why! You are all one body. You are all connected to one another in the bond of Christ’s family, the church. You share the same birth in Baptism. You share the same meal of the Lord’s Body and Blood. So, what goes on with your brothers and sisters in Christ is important to each one of you. When you give a drink of water, a piece of bread, an article of clothing, when you visit the sick or the imprisoned – when you do these things to the least of your fellow believers in Christ, you are doing it to the Lord Himself. Jesus is hidden in the neighbor. You serve Jesus as you help your fellow Christians.
Then the text says: “Let marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be kept pure; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Here is where there is much room for improvement among the people of God. Here is where humble repentance, eager reception of forgiveness, and the earnest desire for doing better needs to take place among Christians, so that holy marriage will be attractive to people.
So, let’s review the biblical ABCs on this topic again. God’s good will is this: a man and a woman get married. Then they enjoy a sexual relationship. That’s love. The way God intends it for everyone’s good. The little girls on my bus route this week got it right when they were singing the KISSING Song:
Mary and Johnny sitting in the tree
First comes love.
Then comes marriage.
Then comes baby in the baby carriage.
So, faith in Jesus receives holy marriage between a man and a woman as a gift from God. Faith honors marriage for what it is: a HOLY gift from God. Marriage is to be kept holy. Or to put it another way, it is to be done according to God’s most holy Word. By not living according to God Word regarding the marriage bed, by not keeping it pure, we have taken all the “holiness” out of marriage. But I’m here to tell you that marriage is holy. The Lord instituted it. In the very good beginning of Genesis 2 with Adam and Eve! It was the Lord’s gift to them and for all. For their benefit. For yours. For everybody. So faith wants to live according to God’s Word and faith will fight the sinful nature or the old Adam that claims to have better words than the Lord.
So, what does this mean? In other words, what does the Christian life look like regarding this topic? It means that you as a Christian either live in single chaste celibacy or marital fidelity. It means no divorcing. No homosexuality. The Bible explicitly forbids same-sex marriage. Oh, I know that Vice President Biden in his white house residence just recently performed a same sex marriage ceremony for two men. I know that he’s so proud of himself. I know that he justifies what he did by calling it the loving thing to do. I know that if he and many like him have their way, the entire Christian church will soon be expected to follow suit. But I’m here to tell you: do not fall for it. Same sex relationships and same sex unions are not God-pleasing. Such relationships are neither the life of faith nor of love.
In addition the life of faith regarding the matter of keeping the marriage bed pure means no fooling around or “experimenting.” No Cyber Sex like Senator Kitner shamefully did. It means no living together and having a one flesh union before the wedding ceremony. Lest you think you’re not included Jesus categorically declared: “I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” My old baseball coach Mr. Steve Jackson would always check out the hot babes walking by. And he would excuse the groping eyes with these words: “it’s alright to look but not to touch.” Coach Jackson was absolutely wrong. He sinned sexually with the eyes and heart. And so do you. So do I.
I know. I know. You’re offended. You’re peeved. Of course you are. Your old sinful nature hates what I just said. After all, what I just said goes totally against everything you’ve grown up with, what you see on TV, what you learned at school, and what the highest elites in the government push. Nevertheless, I remind you of what God says in the text: “Let marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be kept pure.”
Faith wants to do that. Faith always does battle against your old sinful flesh. So, as your pastor (at least for this Sunday still), I warn you against sexual sin. Sexual sin is the idolatry of the self. Sexual sin lives only for personal pleasure with no regard for anyone else, for community or for God. God judges sexual sin. The text says so: “For God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” That’s why there are STDs, broken and devastated families, lost and bewildered children, ruined reputations, violence against women, porn, and death. Those are God’s warning shots of the Law. Warning you to turn away from whatever would adulterate marriage as God’s holy gift.
Now, where you have failed to honor marriage – where you have defiled and polluted the marriage bed in thoughts, words or deeds, or where others have sexually sinned against you, the Lord urges you today to turn to Him for His Good Friday forgiveness and cleansing. After all, Jesus bore all sin. Including sexual sin. Do not exclude sexual sin from the blood of Jesus. Instead, let His blood give you absolution, peace, purification and freedom to love someone in the context of holy marriage.
Then the text speaks of how faith uses money. Wow! Here’s another dicey topic. But we have to have this talk too. So here goes. Faith steers clear of the love (did you hear that?) — THE LOVE of money – and is content with what God has given.
Now let’s be clear. Money is a gift from the Lord. Sometimes God gives certain people a whole heck of a lot of money. However, money is to be used properly: to take care of others. To serve and help people. Money is NOT TO BE LOVED! YOUR NEIGHBOR IS TO BE LOVED. When you love money instead of others YOU TURN MONEY INTO AN IDOL!
Beware of this and mark it well. When you make money into an idol, when your heart trusts it more than the Lord, this false god is unendingly or never-endingly greedy! When money is your idol, it demands all your time. All your talents! All your energy. Your heart. Your mind. Your soul. Your life! It gives you no Sabbath rest! Love money and you’ll never have any peace. Love money and you’ll never know the joy of giving a generous thank offering to the Lord or ever giving to charity. Love money and you will end up hating Jesus! Jesus says so: “You cannot serve both God and money!” The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil – greed, bribery, extortion, robbery, larceny, usury, envy, hatred, violence, murder.
Listen. God knows what you need and He promises to provide all that you need for your body and life. It may not be everything you want, but it is what you need. I’m here to tell you: MONEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED. It is here today and gone tomorrow. One thing is certain. Jesus hung on the cross to make you His own. Trust Jesus. Your life is precious to Him. He paid for your salvation with His blood. He cares for you.
So faith lives contently with what it has been given. The contented heart is at peace. Open to receive gifts. Eager to give thanks and to share. The covetous heart is restless. It pounds with anxiety because there is no end to gain. Jesus has won eternal riches for you that far surpasses and outlasts your financial portfolio. So whatever God gives you – enjoy it. Give thanks for it. Money is to be your servant. You are its master. And you are the Lord’s!
Then the text speaks of how the Christian lives with pastors in the church. Those that speak or preach God’s Word. The text says: “consider the outcome of their life. Imitate their faith.” Not as if the pastor is any better than you. He’s not. He’s just as big as sinner who needs the same Savior that you do. So the pastor confesses, repents and hungers to hear God’s Word of forgiveness. He eagerly wants to eat and drink the Lord’s Body and Blood. Can’t live without it. And He wants to live a holy life according to God’s Word. “Imitate” that.
After all, pastors are accountable to God for the people under their care. Yes, it’s true. It’s what the text says! Kuhlman will have to give an answer for his words or his silence. For his actions and his inaction. This is a great burden for pastors. And it can’t be carried without the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. Most pastors that I know are not looking for more money or bigger congregations, recognition or fame. All a faithful pastor wants is a few broken sinners that will gladly hear the sermon, be taught God’s Word in a Bible class, grieve their sin, want to do better, and seek Christ’s full and total forgiveness. That’s what gives pastors great joy. That’s what keeps a pastor from despair and sleepless nights.
So, faith feeds on God’s Word preached and taught by pastors. Faith, as the text says, remembers the pastor that baptized you, who taught you, and perhaps every once in a while boxed in your ears. Faith remembers the pastors that forgave you for Jesus’ sake, and who modeled sacrificial faithful service. Consider the outcome of their faith, the text says, and imitate their faith.
Well, these are some of the ways that a Christian lives. Willingly. Joyfully. All because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Times may change. People change. Situations change. Congregations change. But not Jesus! He is the same Savior of sinners – the same Mediator, the same Redeemer, the same Lord as He was yesterday. For the believers that came before you and the believers that will follow you. Jesus gives out the same forgiveness, life and salvation in Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper year in and year out.
You need Jesus as Savior every day. You need His forgiveness every day. After all, your love fails. You don’t always love your fellow members here at Trinity. Your hospitality is paltry too often. You’ve not kept the marriage bed pure. You’ve been greedy and made money your idol. You’ve been to critical of your pastors and haven’t imitated their faith.
So, Jesus put me here to tell you and give you the most important message you could ever hear and believe. It sustains and strengthens your faith in Jesus and it gives birth to the works of love that you want to do as a Christian. And that message is this. IN THE NAME AND BY THE COMMAND OF MY LORD JESUS I FORGIVE YOU OF ALL YOUR SIN. GO IN PEACE.
In the Name of Jesus!