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FAITH and LOVE

October 2, 2016

faith

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Pentecost 20                                   Trinity Lutheran Church

2 October 2016                               Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

St. Luke 17:1-10

 

Well, preachers are always just one Sunday away from being let go, sent to the unemployment office or to the cross. Preaching God’s Word is dicey business. The apostles and many preachers over the centuries learned this quite well. I pray that you have ears to hear today. I pray that you will be repented and faithed by God’s Word today.

 

Two main points today from the text otherwise I’ll be too windy and never stop. So, off I go! Better make the most of it while you still let me preach God’s Word to you and FOR YOU.

 

You heard the prophet Habakkuk describe the essence of what it means to be a believer, one of Christ’s disciples. And it sounds so silly. So harebrained. So ridiculous! Not just to the world but even to the biggest of big-wigs in the church!   Habakkuk declared that when it comes to salvation before God the Christian “lives by … faith.” In his letter to the Romans (1:17), St. Paul quotes Habakkuk approvingly to show that this is precisely what the entire Bible and your Christian life before God for salvation is all about. LIVING BY FAITH!

 

So, when you live by faith you are DEPENDENT on the Lord Jesus Christ. HE GIVES. You PASSIVELY receive what He gives. HE SPEAKS. You listen. He gives and speaks His Good Friday divine forgiveness, life and salvation to His sinners through His almighty and all authoritative Word of absolution, holy baptism and holy communion. His gifts enliven and sustain you so that you hang on to Jesus all the more. You won’t let go. You want more and more of what He gives. For salvation faith eagerly receives what Jesus gives. That’s a disciple. Or as Habakkuk said: “the righteous lives by faith.” That’s a sermon that the world and the influenced-by-the-world-church-leaders just cannot comprehend. Can’t wrap their brains around that. “It’s impossible!” they say. Or they object: “Living by faith alone in Jesus? For salvation? It just can’t be!”  

 

Oh, but it is! And there’s more! Get a load of this. Now, the Lord Jesus uses you, His believing, living-by faith-alone-in-Him-disciples, to love others. He uses you to live a disciplined life of self-sacrifice. Or as the post-communion collect says: “fervent love toward one another.” As Jesus came not to be served BUT TO SERVE so you are given to live the same way. Not to be served BUT TO SERVE! So, then, your Christian life is twofold in shape. It’s faith in Jesus and at the same time it’s love for others.

 

You, His hangers on, are to be living extensions of Jesus’ ministering love for others. He wants you to help people, not hurt them. To take care of others not to harm them. To edify and build up their faith in Jesus, not to tear it down or destroy it! With no expectation of any rewards. And such loving is a task that ONLY FAITH IN JESUS CAN HANDLE AND DO! No wonder the apostles beg Jesus to: “Increase our faith.” Perhaps you’re begging for the same thing! I sure hope so! Especially when this sermon is over!

 

Jesus is specific today in what He wants you to do. Here is the good use He has for you in this world.

 

First, He expects a love from you that will in holy fear absolutely avoid putting “temptations to sin” (or “stumbling blocks”) in the way of fellow believers that Jesus calls His “little ones.” What you say and how you act speak volumes. People watch you. People listen to you. Especially fellow believers here at Trinity. Your children. Your grandchildren. If what you say or what you do contradicts or denies faith in Jesus what kind of message are you sending to the “little ones,” fellow Christians?

 

They may get the message that Jesus and Christianity is just a big hoax. A lie. A scam. That you’re nothing but a hypocrite putting on an act. Parents must be very careful with their “little ones” and their tender faith. I warn you parents! Do not provide “temptations to sin” or things that will cause your children to stumble when it comes to faith in Jesus! Again, parents need to be very careful here. Or as Jesus says later in his sermon: “Watch yourselves.”

 

Take your children to church. Raise them as Christians. Like Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois did. Timothy’s father was not a Christian. So Mom and Grandmother stepped up to the plate. They did what Daddy wouldn’t do. They spoke and taught Timothy God’s Word from the time he was a baby and they took him to church to worship Jesus. The coaches, practices, games, and other activities took a back seat to Jesus. No doubt Mother Eunice and Grandma Lois said repeatedly to Timothy: “We’re going to church Timothy. Jesus is Lord, Timothy! He died for you and the world Timothy! He bids you to eat His body and drink His blood, Timothy! Tell coach that you’ll be at practice, game or tournament after you worship Jesus.” They gave Timothy no temptations to sin! That was their work of love. Holy work. God-pleasing.

 

Parents that do not speak God’s Word to their children and parents that do not take their children to church to worship Jesus on a regular basis are playing a deadly spiritual game with their children. They teach loudly and clearly that Jesus must not be the Lord. They teach that Jesus is quite irrelevant to their lives. They teach that Jesus is essentially A NOTHING and certainly not the Savior. What a “temptation to sin” parents present and offer to their children! That is hellacious! God bless the parents that do not cause such a stumbling block or tempt the “little ones” to sin!

Remember last week’s parable? When the “little ones” see that you worship fun, money and possessions more than Jesus, the “little ones” will be scandalized. Hurt. Lied to. Why? Because you’ve put before them “temptations to sin.” You place before them blocks that make them stumble when it comes to worshiping only Jesus. Confessing only Jesus. Relying only on Jesus. LIVING BY FAITH!

 

Don’t do that! Avoid that. Do not offer the temptation to the “little ones” to deny Jesus. After all, Jesus says that, “It would be better … to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” in their faith and trust in me! Love the “little ones.” Repent of your lovelessness and disobedience. Take care of your fellow believers, the “little ones.” Edify their faith in Jesus! Strengthen their faith in Good Friday Jesus!

 

Second, Jesus wants you to love others by showing a readiness to forgive a repentant fellow believer. “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”

 

Again, you are to be living extensions or living instruments of Christ’s ministering, self-sacrificial love! It’s what you pray for every day, right? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

 

And not just once! But at every opportunity! When someone sins against you, you have the divine call from Jesus to forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

 

That’s exactly what God in Christ has done with you. Right? He’s forgiven you everything through Christ’s Good Friday blood. So, Jesus expects you to love the “little ones,” your fellow believers by forgiving them too. Always! There is no limit to forgiveness: Christ’s or yours!

 

Well, what the self-sacrificing love that the Lord Jesus expects of you his disciples is quite the task. You are given to serve not to be served. Jesus requires you to be His servant in the world. Totally devoted to helping and edifying the “little ones” with no thought of any reward. Just simply doing what needs to be done because that is what love does and then speaks the truth: “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Again, it’s no wonder that you and the apostles beg Jesus: “Increase our faith!”

 

And Jesus does! He assures them and you that IT IS NOT THE POWER OF YOUR TINY LITTLE-MUSTARD-SEED-BELIEVING BUT THE POWER OF GOD IN WHOM YOU BELIEVE that achieves what appears to be so hard and in some cases impossible. Jesus compares the love given to the “little ones” — bearing patiently with them and forgiving them without limit – to commanding a firmly rooted mulberry tree to be pulled out by the roots and planted into the sea. How could one do that? It sounds absurd. No one does that.

 

Oh, but Jesus does. Through you living-by-faith-disciples He does what seems impossible and downright ridiculous. As silly and strange as telling the firmly rooted mulberry tree to be uprooted and be planted in the sea Jesus uses you as His instruments to love others and to give away His Good Friday forgiveness to those that sin against you.

 

Through you Jesus does what no one ever expects. What seems to be impossible. He loves and forgives others. And even more. Jesus, the Master of His house, serves you His servants. He does it concretely in the Lord’s Supper. He’s there FOR YOU to edify and build you up with His Good Friday body and blood and to GIVE YOU His promise that He’s forgiven you of every sin. YES, ALL IS FORGIVEN! That’s His unthwartable promise!

 

So, today, what Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:20 He still speaks to you today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I WILL COME TO HIM AND EAT WITH HIM AND HE WITH ME.” That’s the Lord’s Supper! And His giving in the Sacrament will strengthen / “increase” your faith in Him as the Savior and intensify your fervent love for others.

 

What joy!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

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