Reformation Sunday – 2022 LSB #’s 566:1-3, 6; 563, 656
Text – Romans 3:20-22 (NIV)
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight from works of law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
A DECLARATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence was key to the founding of our nation.
Through it, the American colonies of Britain declared that they were now independent of the rule of King George. They’d no longer submit to his will & they were free of his tyranny. But simply making that declaration was not enough to make their freedom a reality.
King George didn’t give up so easily. The American colonies had to fight for, & they had to earn, their independence. The Declaration of Independence was only a statement of belief, not a statement of fact.
The American colonies believed that certain truths were self-evident. King George did not see it that way. When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, his opening statement said, “Out of love & zeal for truth, & the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly debated…” Yet the Pope had a huge problem with Martin Luther’s truth.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, & for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:37b-38a) Apparently, Pontius Pilate wasn’t on the side of Truth because he was not listening to Jesus.
We hold these truths to be self-evident. Out of love & zeal for truth. I came into the
world to testify to the truth. What is truth? The world in which we live increasingly says that everyone has the right to decide their own truth. What is your truth? Do you believe in anything strongly enough in order to die for it?
The American colonies went to war over their truth. Martin Luther was excommunicated from, & had his very life was threatened by, the church, for his truth. Jesus Christ was not only threatened but actually murdered by the church for witnessing to God’s truth. Is truth really worth suffering & even dying for? Is there even such a thing as truth?
Jesus told the Jews, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) That means, if you hold to His teaching, you will know the truth. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus states that He is the Truth.
But the Jews answered Him, “We’ve never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Do you recognize their problem? They don’t know the truth! They don’t know that they are slaves. Are you like them? Do you believe you have never been a slave?
Years ago, the infamous governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, caused an uproar with his statement that religion was a crutch that weak people lean on. In effect, he was calling us slaves of religion. The Jews were slaves to religion & we can be too, if we refuse to hear the truth, the news that we ourselves are no better than Jesse Ventura.
Are you satisfied with your crutch just the way it is? Do you have any desire to be set free of your slavery? Do you feel safe here in Holt away from all the crime & moral poverty of the big cities? Are you secure in your ability to handle whatever life brings your way?
A friend of mine lived in Wyoming, a state much farther from the big city than Holt. Yet, the best friend of his 15 year old son committed suicide. Are you prepared to handle a tragedy like that? Are you hoping that you have nothing to fear in this life or the next? Like the Jews, you may not believe that you’re a slave, however, Christ’s reply to the Jews applies just as surely to us: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34 ESV)
The results of sin are readily apparent in everyone’s life. Death is awaiting all of us.
Whether by suicide, illness, or some kind of accident, death is coming for you. It seems to me, that if you cannot control it, then you are a slave to it. Death will make its demand of you one day, & you will be powerless to refuse. That is slavery. You have a need for freedom.
But to gain freedom, you must 1st believe that you are a slave. In today’s Epistle reading, Paul tells us one of the purposes of the Law, “…so that every mouth may be silenced & the whole world held accountable to God.” (3:19 ESV) The whole world. No one will be excused. Through the Law we become conscious of sin, & of our need for a remedy.
Generally speaking, human beings do not like to hear the Law. It makes us feel bad, & no one wants to feel bad. But even if the truth hurts, without it we can never be set free. Like a man with chest pains who thinks it’s just the flu; it might feel bad to hear that it’s a heart attack, but unless he believes that news, he’ll die rather quickly of that “flu.”
Yet, if he believes the news, he’ll seek treatment & very probably live. Do you have the courage to believe the news that you are sick & a slave to your sinful nature? Denial of, or even refusal to hear, that truth, condemns you & will destroy you. Believing that truth opens your way to eternal life.
Fortunately, the true God has more than one truth to tell. That other truth is the Gospel. Our relationship to the Creator is not based only upon the Law or things that we must do. As children of God, we’re also related to Him through His love, through what His Son did on the cross. We’re related through the declaration of righteousness that Christ makes on our behalf.
That righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. It
does not come from living the right kind of life. It does not come from avoiding certain sins, or from buying your forgiveness. In fact, just the opposite is true. Living the right kind of life & avoiding sin, comes from the fact that God has declared us righteous.
That Good News empowers us to change. That Gospel strengthens our ability to overcome our sinful desires. In the days of Martin Luther, the Truth of the Gospel had been all but lost in the theology & the practice of the church. There was no good news. There was only the painful news of the Law. Luther sought to regain God’s declaration of righteousness.
That declaration is a statement of fact, & not simply belief. It’s a declaration made by the Being who causes all things to exist; quite unlike the Declaration of Independence, which was made by mere mortals. And Jesus Christ is the Man who backs it all up, the Man who is also God; the 2nd person of the Trinity who is, Himself, the Truth.
It is He who declares you righteous for His sake, on His own account. That declaration of righteousness 1st occurs at baptism. This morning, Lydia was named a child of God. She was named as one who inherits all the blessings of our Lord & Savior, namely, freedom from the eternal effects of sin, death & damnation. She has total freedom from the tyranny of Satan.
Every day the devil is attempting to lead each one of you astray. Every day we need the Reformation of our body & soul begun in the waters of our baptism. It is continued in our study of God’s Word & in our reception of His precious Body & Blood at the Lord’s supper.
Daily, not just weekly or monthly, the sinful man in us must be crucified, so that the new man might live. We are Christ’s disciples. He declares us so; He declares us Sons; He declares us free & sinless. That is the truth, which Pilate did not understand, that we have actually been set free, made holy & righteous in the sight of Almighty God.
Believing that - causes children of God to live differently than the children of men. We
don’t have to back up the declaration of our righteousness. Christ has already done that. He has won the victory against our oppressor.
Our life on earth is sort of like being notified that we’ve inherited ten billion dollars. We would start to live differently as soon as we heard the news, even if we had not yet received any of the money. In the Declaration of our Righteousness, you have already received some of your inheritance. At Baptism, we receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
We’ve been declared to be Yahweh’s new testament people, & the Holy Spirit is at work in us, even now, renewing us. God’s New Covenant has already come, but there is even more awaiting you. Because now we are still those who break God’s covenant. The new man in you & me longs for that inner conflict & turmoil to end.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us there will be a time, after those days, when the old will have passed away & everything will be new – completely new. That will be the final Reformation, where the work begun in our baptism is completed in the resurrection of our body, as it is reunited with our soul, at the end of time. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Lord, I believe Thy precious blood, which at the mercy seat of God pleads for the captives’ liberty, was also shed in love for me. When from the dust of death we rise, to claim our mansion in the skies, this then shall be our only plea; Christ Jesus lived & died for me. Amen. LSB 563:3 & 5.
Stewards Living with Purpose – 4 LSB #’s 851, 781, 785
Text – 2 Corinthians 8:1-3
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy & their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, & beyond their means, of their own accord.
Generous in Every Way
This is the 4th message in the October emphasis Stewards Living with Purpose. In Corinthians 8 & 9, Paul talks about a model for Christian giving. He lays out before the Corinthian church, & all of us, how to offer our money & our resources to the Lord.
Albert Einstein once pointed out that there are only three ways to teach a child. The 1st way is example, the 2nd is example, & the 3rd is example. That is precisely what Paul is doing in teaching the people in Corinth about giving. He teaches them by way of example & he uses the churches of Macedonia mentioned in verse 1:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia…” Philippi, Thessalonica & Berea, were three cities in which these churches were located who were models of Christian giving. They had learned what Martin Luther discovered as he said,
“I have held many things in my hands & I have lost them all, but whatever I have placed into God’s hands, that I will always possess.” The Macedonians had learned what Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr in Ecuador said, “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
The Macedonians were examples of giving. They gladly exchanged earthly treasure for heavenly wealth. Their giving serves as a model for all Christians & begins the whole section on Christian giving in chapters 8 & 9. In the 1st eight verses we learn a great principle from the Macedonians, “Giving is the behavior of devout Christians.” It starts with love for Jesus – love that rises out of hearts in tune with the Lord. This love for Jesus is the heart of stewardship. It was the attitude of the Macedonians who provide this model of Christian giving.
Out of love for Christ they gave themselves to the Lord, & everything flowed from that commitment. As we look at the Macedonians’ devotion to the Lord & the character of their giving, several elements arise from this text.
First of all, their giving was initiated by God’s grace. It was not a human endeavor. It was something supernaturally motivated & produced. Verse 1 states, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” From this we know that it was the grace of God at work, prompting their giving.
The primary motive of their generosity was not human kindness. The primary motive was not human philanthropy. It was not a desire to pacify their conscience. It was not a desire to do well. What motivated their generosity was the grace of God at work in their hearts. This kind of giving that the Macedonians did is not normal. It’s not just human giving.
Though man is fallen, there is some knowledge of right & wrong, still a conscience excusing or accusing. Man can do things that are humanly good, but even at its highest level, human good deeds will not reach the proportions of goodness & righteousness prompted by the transforming grace of God. The same is true in giving money.
If you have watched TV telethons, you’ve seen people sending in pledges & pledges & pledges. Occasionally a famous person will send in a $1,000 pledge or a $5,000 pledge, but you know he’s a multi-millionaire. His giving is far short of any sacrifice. Typical human giving is not sacrificial giving.
Occasionally, where the love bond is profound, where we have family or someone to
whom we are deeply attached there is a measure of sacrifice, & there are times when humans do sacrifice for noble causes. But generally, our level of human giving stops short of altering our chosen life style. That level of generosity may be considered a human level.
What you have among the Macedonians is something far beyond that. It is prompted by the work of the grace of God in the heart of a transformed person. Sensitivity to new life, longing for Godly things, loving heaven more than earth, desiring to fulfill kingdom purposes – that’s what is behind this giving. It is grace that has saved a soul from hell.
It’s the transformation that comes to believers & causes them to seek 1st the kingdom of God, letting everything else go. It’s a transformation causing believers to set their affections on things above, not on things here. It causes us to hunger & thirst after righteousness & Godliness. It makes us long for the Word of God, for obedience & for following the leading of the Spirit.
All of those are effects of God’s grace. Another is the longing to give generously & sacrificially. It is part of working out the salvation that God is doing in us. It is God at work in you, to will & to do of His own good pleasure. The Macedonians did not give out of their riches. They gave sacrificially out of their poverty.
Paul holds up the Macedonian believers as examples of generous giving, but he does this in such a way that protects the whole issue of grace. We are drawn to the commendable character of the Macedonians, & we can use them as a model, but Paul shuts out all human merit by saying that they did so because they were prompted by the grace of God.
That grace was the primary motive enabling them to be willing & eager to give. Their giving, which is a model for our giving, is prompted & initiated by God’s grace. Paul wants the Corinthians to respond to the same saving grace, the same sanctifying grace, the same enabling grace. We give, not like the world gives, but far beyond that, because we have been
transformed by the grace of God.
Second, not only is giving motivated by the grace of God, giving transcends difficult circumstances. Verse 2: “In a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy & their extreme poverty have over flowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” Difficult circumstances had no negative effect on their giving.
It wasn’t like; well, you know, we don’t know what the economic future is. Macedonia is in recession. We’re being persecuted mercilessly. We don’t know if we’ll have enough for tomorrow. We’re anxious & don’t know what the future holds since we’ve identified with Jesus Christ. We have hostility from the Jews. We better hold on to the financial resources we have.
Macedonia had been reduced to grinding poverty. They were crippled by the taxes of Rome & those taxes left the people destitute. It got so bad that at one point Rome eliminated the taxes just so the people could crawl out of the hole they were in & reach the level of survival.
Yet, in the midst of it, there was no ‘poor me’ mentality; no ‘Why are you asking us? We’ve got our own problems’ mentality. In the midst of prolonged intense suffering & deprivation they gave. That’s what devout believers do. Faith enables us to live above our circumstances. In the case of the Macedonians, they passed their test with an A+.
Their severe hardship had no negative effect on their giving. Even in the middle of such dire circumstances, they were not focusing on themselves. They were thinking of others they had never even met. That’s the amazing part. It’s the attitude God creates in His children.
They did not know the saints in Jerusalem personally, yet selflessly, out of their own terrible distress, they sacrificed for folks who were part of the body of Christ in another place. That’s how it is with devout Christians. They give because God’s grace motivates them.
A third element in their giving is that they gave with joy. You might think, “Well, they
gave out of duty; they gave out of pressure; they gave because they felt they had to. They gave because they knew God would punish them if they didn’t or reward them if they did.” While those are certainly considerations in the matter of giving, we read in verse 2:
“In a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy & their extreme poverty have over flowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” They weren’t just content to do it. They weren’t just willing to do it. They were happy to give, even abundantly happy. They were not reluctant.
2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s what they were – cheerful givers who gave with an abundance of joy. Their joy rose above their pain, it rose above their sorrow, it rose above their circumstances.
They were able to do what Paul had encouraged them to do in the Philippians letter, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) They had joy in laying up treasures in Heaven. Joy in seeking the kingdom. Joy because they were more blessed to give than to receive. Joy in knowing that God would give back in greater measure.
Number four in the characteristics of faithful living is that their giving was not hindered by poverty. Paul says they gave out of a great ordeal of affliction, they gave with an abundance of joy, & they gave in spite of their deep poverty.
Paul’s reference is to extreme poverty, & out of their rock-bottom nothing they gave generously. How could they do that? Because they believed Philippians 4:19, “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” They knew that Jesus said, “Give & it shall be given unto you.” (Luke 6:38) They knew they could not outgive God.
The Macedonian believers didn’t fall for the devil’s temptation to think, “I’d give if I had more.” They understood that giving is not a matter of what you have; it’s a matter of the heart. Devout believers don’t need more, & they don’t wait for more. They give from their poverty like the widow Jesus saw who gave everything, even though it was just two mites. Generosity is a heart issue. In Luke 16:10 Jesus put it this way,
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, & whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Faith is not an issue of how much you have. That has nothing to do with it. It’s an issue of the heart. As we believe we give. If we refuse to give to God, we are refusing to trust God. How much we have is not the issue.
They barely had enough to live, but whatever tiny bit they could, they gave. The Macedonian offering is a model for the Corinthians & for us. Giving is motivated by the grace of God, transcends difficult circumstances, gives with joy & has no relationship to how much I have. Giving is an issue of the heart.
Number five – their giving was generous. In spite of their condition Paul says, “Their abundance of joy & their extreme poverty have overflowed in wealth of generosity.” They existed in poverty & yet their giving literally overflowed. They were rich in generosity which is an attitude of the heart.
They were not wealthy in money, nor rich in possessions; they were rich in single-minded, selfless, humble devotion to God & to others. That’s why Jesus said the woman who gave the two little copper coins gave more than everyone else. Paul wants the Corinthians, who were wealthier than the Macedonians, to be rich in their unselfish single-minded generosity.
Where there is a generous heart, the amount doesn’t matter to God. He just wants that heart of generosity, & He gives us that heart, if we will receive it. So, the precious Macedonians, though they had very little, gave. They gave because they were motivated by the grace of God in their lives, grace that transcended their difficult circumstances. They gave with joy. Their giving was not at all hindered by their poverty. Their giving reflected the generosity of their hearts. What an example to us! They had so little. They gave so much. As God’s children, we should be careful to resist the temptation to hold back.
God isn’t asking us to strip ourselves down to poverty level. He is simply asking us to give joyfully, faithfully, even sacrificially, trusting Him to meet our needs in the future. God provides us with money to take care of our needs & take care of our family around us. If we don’t do that, we’re worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)
A wise steward saves, plans for the future, & gives. All that is laid out in the Bible. God has given Americans all things richly to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) He wants us to enjoy the magnificent beauties of this world & the comforts that it yields to make life blessed. As long as we have hearts like the Macedonians we are going to respond, giving joyfully & generously.
We give Thee but Thine own, whatever the gift may be; all that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee. May we Thy bounties thus as stewards true receive & gladly, as Thou blessest us, to Thee our firstfruits give! Amen. LSB 781:1-2.
Stewards Living with Purpose – 3 LSB #’s 842, 848, 894
Text – Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Serve One Another
When your family or friends describe you, would the word “servant” be used? Probably most of us would not be described as a servant. However, whatever our position or status in life, we are called to share God’s love in acts of service to our neighbor.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is a command that reaches out to everyone. Paul exhorts His readers, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Of course, the description of a servant would fittingly describe Jesus. The Son of God, in His own words,
“…did not come to be served, but to serve, & to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) This is the Son of Man Who lived a childhood in obedience to His Father & to the earthly parents who were chosen for Him. This is the Son of Man Who preached & taught, Who healed the sick, confronted the wicked, & comforted the despairing.
This is the Son of Man Who calls us to “…deny [ourselves] & take up [our crosses] & follow [Him].” (Matthew 16:24) Jesus taught powerful lessons about servanthood. He taught a lesson on the night of the final meal He would eat with His disciples. Luke tells us that all 12 were gathered in an upper room with Jesus in their midst.
Off to the side, nearly forgotten, was a basin. In the basin was water, but no one was standing behind the basin. No one had it in his grasp. It stood unattended, unnoticed. That basin was meant for the washing of feet. In ancient times, the mode of transportation was a little messier than it is today. The person who was traveling would not only come into your home with a dust & dirt, but his feet would be stained by donkey droppings as well. Washing feet was the job of the least servant. In our terms, the servant with the lowest amount of seniority got the basin as the guests came into the home. He would kneel down & wash their feet.
On that night, when the 12 were gathered with Jesus, the basin was unattended. There were no men pushing & shoving to see who would serve. “No, no, my turn, you got to do it last time. I get to be first. Get behind me. I get to serve. Who do you think you are, pushing in front of me? It’s my turn.”
The basin stood alone – until Jesus knelt down & began to wash the feet of each disciple. It was a very awkward moment. They knew He was the Son of God, from the right hand of the Father. Finally, speaking up as if to voice the concern, the awkwardness, & the embarrassment of the whole group, Peter said,
“Lord, You can’t do this.” Of all the people in the room, Jesus should not be doing this! The Twelve could not see that He was teaching them about a more blessed way of life. Jesus was getting them ready for what was going to happen within 24 hours.
As He hung on that cross, & they watched Him bleed & groan & gasp, the same thought washed over them that should come to us as you & I picture that scene. It’s supposed to be the same feeling the disciples had when Jesus took that basin: “Lord, this isn’t right. You’re not supposed to be doing this. I’m the one who should be there. I should be suffering, not You.”
Yet the Lord makes it clear that, through that cross, He gives more than an example; He gives new life. It is new life as we look to Jesus & recognize the blessings of His service, of His ransom, of His deliverance. We rejoice & hold onto & remember that great beginning. That beginning, our salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, enables us to serve one another.
The very nature of Jesus is the power that should be our encouragement to serve others.
Acknowledging Christ for Who He is & what He has done to redeem sinful people, we begin to understand His nature & purpose for us. As those who are forgiven, we have the redemptive purpose of living a life of faithful service to others in Jesus’ name.
Christ’s love for us & our love for Him make our lives of servanthood possible. Through a loving relationship with Him, we are willing to live lives in faithful service. As God’s people, we are called to love God with all of our hearts, souls & minds & to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37, 39)
The key to our service is living with an attitude that is God-centered. With God as our focus, we want to love & serve Him by loving & serving others. Unfortunately, because we are naturally self-centered, our interest is in serving ourselves instead of serving others.
When we succumb to the temptation of putting ourselves first, we place ourselves in the center of life, & become less interested & ultimately unaware of the needs of others. God’s grace turns us around. In Christ, He has put us first, so now we are freed to put others first.
So, how do we love & serve people who are repugnant & unlovable? How do we get away from using a to-do-list? How do we put ourselves in positions to serve? Here are four suggestions:
As God’s stewards, we are to serve all people, not just those who bring us status or clout or return the favor. Helping others minimizes the problem of self-absorption or pride that interfere with a life of servanthood. When we do mundane, unnoticed acts of service for others, we receive the reward of knowing that it really is Christ we are serving. (Matthew 25:40)
Being a servant means, first of all, being available. It means to be willing. We may at times need to have our agendas interrupted for service opportunities. True service comes without thinking because it happens naturally.
Jesus also calls us into servanthood not just because others need our service but because of what happens to us when we serve. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) We receive through our giving. In serving others we often gain more than those receiving our service. When we serve others, God’s love within us overflows through us to others. This thought can be illustrated by two large bodies of water in the Holy Land. The one to the north is filled up by the streams that run down from the mountains with the melting snow & the rains that come in their season. Standing along the banks of that northern body of water, the Sea of Galilee, this is what you’ll experience.
You will hear children splashing in the water, fishermen pulling in their catch, birds flying overhead & diving to catch fish. Flowers grow along the bank of the lake. It’s a place of life, of celebration, a place of giving & receiving. Then the waters of that lake make their way down the Jordan River.
They head south until they come to their resting place. If you stand on the bank of that body of water, you won’t hear children splashing. There won’t be flowers growing on the shore. There are no birds flying overhead dipping in for fish, & no fishermen on the lake.
Do you know what that place is called? It’s the Dead Sea because it’s one of those places that receives water, receives the gifts, receives the blessings, & then holds on. There’s no escape, no outlet, no sharing. The waters turn stagnant, putrid, & cannot support life.
Are you like the Sea of Galilee, a channel of God’s love, or like the Dead Sea, a terminal receptor of God’s gifts? Whenever you recognize that you are a dead sea, simply repent & believe the Good News that Jesus has given you life. Then rejoice & live. The Holy Spirit will not leave you in that dead sea. Amen.
As we worship, grant us vision, till Your love’s revealing light in its height & depth & greatness, dawns upon our quickened sight, making known the needs & burdens Your compassion bids us bear, stirring us to tireless striving, Your abundant life to share. Called by worship to Your service, forth in Your dear name we go, to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope & health, goodwill & comfort, counsel, aid & peace we give, that Your servants, Lord, in freedom may Your mercy show & live. Amen. LSB 848:3-4.
Stewards Living with Purpose – 2 LSB #’s 388, 826, 837
Text – Luke 10:3
Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
Be My Witnesses
In this 2nd message of the four-week program Stewards Living with Purpose, the Gospel message is this – Jesus the Son of God is sending you! This is God’s work God’s plan God’s provision. It is not your work nor is it your plan! God thought of it long before you.
Since our Lord Jesus walked the earth, at the time He was here & since, there have always been people attracted to Jesus. There have always been people curious about Jesus. There have always been people wanting to show respect & honor to Jesus. There have been people who believed that God’s Son is the One who saves us from our sins.
There have also been people unwilling to follow Jesus on His terms. In a general way we know what those terms are, but here are the specifics from Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily & follow Me.” Jesus said that to the people who were trailing after Him, hearing Him preach & seeing Him do miracles.
Not everyone was willing to take up their cross. Many of the curious, many of the attracted, many of those enthralled by Jesus, even many of those who believed in Jesus were not willing to abandon everything. The sinful nature in us sees it as a daunting invitation.
To say it’s the end of me & the beginning of You, to confess Jesus as Lord & follow Him wherever He went whatever it cost – not everyone was willing to do that. In Luke 9 we can read about some disciples who walked no more with Him because the stakes were too high; the price was more than they wanted to pay.
At the end of chapter 9, we encounter three would-be disciples. The 1st one said, “I will follow You wherever You go.” The Lord then said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, & birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58) Jesus meant that following Him was not going to be comfortable. It’s not about self-fulfillment. You are not guaranteed anything – not your health, wealth, or prosperity. In fact, you are guaranteed this: Christ’s purpose for you has little to do with anything in the material sense.
Jesus said then to another, “Follow Me.” The man replied, “Lord, let me first go & bury my father.” Maybe this man’s father had not yet died, so he wanted to go home & wait until that time. Then, he could gain his inheritance & be able to live the way he wanted to live while, at the same time, following Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go & proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
Another also said, “I will follow You Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Perhaps he wanted to make sure he’d sorted out all his relationships & gotten his affairs in order. Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow & looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
Here were three men, classified as disciples, who were to one degree or another drawn to Jesus, interested in Him, fascinated by Him. They were attracted to who He was, curious about what He taught, even to the point where they believed in Him & wanted to affirm that belief, but were they willing to follow on His terms?
On the other hand, there were some true disciples. In chapter 10 we meet 72 of them, sent by the Lord to prepare the way for His coming. They were willing to deny themselves by taking up their cross daily & following Him. They were the genuine true disciples who were willing to abandon everything in their own lives.
They submitted to the lordship of Christ, to do gladly whatever it is He would ask of
them, paying any price, even if it meant death. No excuses with the 72 genuine followers. From among the large group of disciples, learners, students, followers, Jesus picks 72. He’d already chosen Twelve that were uniquely to be the Apostles. Judas fell out. Mathias was added to take his place. Then there was that Apostle, out of season, by the name of the Paul.
These 72 are in addition to the Twelve. Genuine followers – sent by our Lord to be the 1st Kingdom missionaries. We can see ourselves in this group. Like the Apostles, they have no extraordinary human qualifications. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29,
“…not many of you were wise according to worldly standards; not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world …what is weak in the world …what is low & despised …so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” The advance of the Kingdom will never come about by human plan or power or wisdom.
Some of Jesus’ followers were just day trippers, who’d come & see Him when He was in town, but they were not committed. Out of the crowd of disciples with Jesus as He moved away from Galilee, He appointed 72 who were committed & then answered His call.
“And [Jesus] sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town & place where He was about to go.” (Luke 10:1) Thirty-six pairs, they were the advance teams, the forward scouts who would go into a town & announce the arrival of the coming king. This was pretty much a traditional way to do that.
In ancient days, as a king was going to enter a town or village, heralds would go ahead, blowing horns, calling the town into the city square, making the announcement that the monarch was going to arrive. Jesus was going to spend the remaining months of His life going from town to town & village to village. He wanted people to be prepared for Him.
The 72 messengers are missionaries proclaiming the good news of salvation through the
King, the Messiah, the Savior. They are not unlike us. This is our responsibility as well; except we’re not telling people about a Messiah who is coming. We are telling people about a Messiah who has already arrive & accomplished His mission!
The ministry is the very same & the Messiah is also the same. We are among that force who go into all the world & preach the Gospel to every creature. We are among the force that goes & makes disciples of all nations. We are among those who go to Judea, Samaria & the uttermost parts of the earth.
Therefore, the instruction & interaction Jesus has with the 72 is helpful for us because we are called to the same purpose & responsibility. We are witnesses to Christ in our world. That’s the reason we’re still alive. We’ve been saved, & we enjoy fellowship with God & with each other, but the fellowship is imperfect here; it’s not satisfying to us nor to God.
We are saved to be obedient, but our obedience is limited; it’s neither satisfying to us nor to God. We are saved to worship, but the worship isn’t all it should be; it doesn’t satisfy our hearts or His. Why does He leave us here? Because there’s one thing you’ll never do in Heaven & that is “witness for Jesus.”
The primary purpose of the church is to reach people with the Gospel. That’s why we are here. We are, as it were, an extension of the 72. We can’t be Apostles, but we can be witnesses for Christ. The Apostles were all men, but there’s no gender distinction among witnesses.
The Apostles were called to be preachers, but witnesses are simply to give testimony of the coming of Jesus Christ. All of us are in this group of the 72. We have been sent to proclaim the coming of the King, & if we’re going to do witnessing, we have to start with motive.
The necessary motive is compassion. The basis of all effective witnessing is not training. It is compassion – a deep profound sense of sympathy because of the desperate condition of the unconverted. It is a heart-wrenching concern over the lost, which is what moved Jesus’ heart. Matthew 9:36 tells us:
“When [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed & helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In verses 37-38 Jesus then said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into His harvest.” The harvest is huge & the workers are few.
Everywhere the Lord went in His ministry, He was moved with compassion. Jesus moved through His ministry literally overcome with compassion. That’s where witnessing begins. You cannot be content to do nothing. How can you be content to sit idly by? The souls of our brothers & sisters are at stake. How can we not answer the call?
That leads to a 2nd essential step which is prayer. The Lord says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” We are to pray that the Lord will raise up more missionaries, that the Lord will motivate more people to be His witnesses.
How often do you pray? How often are you on your knees pleading, “God send more, send more?” You can’t get on your knees & beseech the Lord to raise up more witnesses without your conscience strongly influencing you that you are the answer to your own prayer!
The third step is urgency. Jesus said, “Go! I am sending you…” (Luke 10:3) You say, “Well, wait a minute, how trained were they? Don’t we 1st need to have training in witnessing?”
Certainly, it’s helpful to know about the teachings of certain cults, world religions & how various people think. It’s nice to know the philosophies of our time in order to find entry points for the Gospel. But eventually, it comes down to the fact that you have a story to tell. You have a King to proclaim. Don’t shirk the duty because you feel you lack specific training. The Lord collects those who have denied themselves, taken up their crosses, & followed Him. They are genuine & true believers. They have entered into His Kingdom. That’s enough. Jesus said, “Go your way & tell them I’m coming.” The mission is immediate. It is urgent. If you are a Christian, start today with your ministry of evangelism. It is crucial.
Compassion, prayer, urgency, & now number four: vigilance – be on the alert. “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3) Jesus says, “You’re going to be like a lamb in a wolf pack. I want you to know that.” It’s not a great recruiting speech. If you want to figure out a way to sign people up, that probably would not be it.
It is, however, the honesty of Jesus; He never lowers the standard. He said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Me, be a lamb in the midst of a wolf pack.” He told it exactly the way it was &, as we all know, nearly all the apostles had a fate related to persecution, didn’t they? They were martyred.
You have no strength in yourself, so keep your eyes open. Be aware, be vigilant, be careful. There’s nothing wrong with being careful or thoughtful; nothing wrong with making wise choices, or avoiding unnecessary persecution & hostility, but be prepared to be hated by all. This kind of call demands the greatest level of commitment possible. Take up your cross.
Effective witnessing requires compassion, prayer, urgency, vigilance & trust. Jesus says, “Trust Me, because if you are going out like a lamb in a wolf pack, if you’re going to face a huge harvest with few laborers, if you’re going to realize the urgency of this, you are going to sense that you do not have the resources. That’s okay. You will have to trust Me for everything.”
Look at verse 4: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals…” This is the same kind of command Jesus gave to the Twelve recorded in Luke 9:3: “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; & do not have two tunics.” Why is this necessary? Are we supposed to be like the homeless? Bouncing from handout to handout? “What about eating?” we ask, & Jesus answers, “I’ll take care of it.” We counter, “Where am I going to sleep?” Again, Jesus assures us, “Don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of all of it. What I’m asking from you is that you go empty-handed in absolute trust.”
Like the 72, we are sent as lambs in the midst of wolves, but Jesus says we are to trust Him for protection, trust Him to equip us, trust Him to cause growth where we plant & water. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7) Jesus trusted His Father as He suffered & prayed in Gethsemane, as He went to the cross, & as He died there – “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46 ESV)
We follow Jesus & take up our cross not by our own power. It’s done through the almighty power of God the Holy Spirit. We witness to Christ’s love for us not because a sermon tells us to. We witness out of God’s power demonstrated to us as He rescues us from the chains of sin through His love.
As sinners who have been rescued by the blood of Christ, it is our nature to ‘sing’ to others about the glory of our heavenly Father. He could have destroyed us for our rebellion, but He destroyed His only begotten Son in our place. Then He raised Him from the dead & guaranteed our resurrection as well.
You & I are able to follow Jesus with joy & share that with others because we have been rescued from the despair & the evil of this world. We have even been rescued from our failure to be joyful in telling others. Amen.
If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say He died for all. If you cannot rouse the wicked with the judgment’s dread alarms, you can lead the little children to the Savior’s waiting arms. If you cannot be a watchman, standing high on Zion’s wall, point out the path to heaven, offering life & peace to all, with your prayers & with your bounties you can do what God commands; you can be like faith Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands. Amen. LSB 826:2-3.
Stewards Living with Purpose – 1 LSB #’s 525:1, 3-5, 947, 783
Text – 1 Corinthians 10:31
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
All to the Glory of God
Stewards Living with Purpose will be an educational & enjoyable 4 weeks in our congregation as we look at the purposes that God gives to us – His stewards. Yahweh tells us through the Apostle Paul that He “…desires all people to be saved & to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
You & I are God’s instruments or channels through which He works to share the life-saving Gospel with all people. He calls each of us to use our time, talents & resources faithfully to be His light in a dark world. We are called to use all of God’s gifts for the purpose of helping others to know His Son Jesus.
In our relationships with God & others, we have the purpose of giving Him glory through our witnessing, loving, serving & giving. Today’s message focuses on one Scripture verse – 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God is telling us through the Apostle Paul that we are to “do all to the glory of God.”
God wants & deserves to be glorified; however, it is in our nature to resist giving Him glory. Each & every day Satan is encouraging us to put ourselves first. Satan works on our selfish ambition, pride, arrogance, or other character flaws to get in the way of serving & glorifying God with our heart, mind & strength.
Rather than give God glory, our thoughts are more like “What’s in it for me?” Me, mine & myself are words that reveal our focus on ourselves. In a question-and-answer session after one of his lectures, the sainted author C. S. Lewis was asked which of the world’s religions gives its followers the greatest happiness. Lewis paused & said this, “While it lasts, the religion of worshiping oneself is best.” He went on to say that when short-term happiness is identified as the most important thing, it is the self we seek above all else. Theologian Richard Baxter wrote, “Man’s fall was his turning from God to himself.” This seeking of self leads to boredom & depression & downfall.
Turning to ourselves & seeking self-will, rather than the Lord’s will, is one of the biggest obstacles to a relationship with Jesus. We are far healthier if we seek to answer these questions instead, “What are my true motives? Where is my heart?”
In the OT book written by Joshua, he exhorts all the tribes of Israel to choose whom they will serve. He then says, “But for me & my house, we will serve the Lord.” (24:15) The bold choice made by Joshua serves as a pattern for making the wisest choice of all – the choice to serve & glorify God no matter what.
Spiritually, every person has only two choices: serve God or serve self. In life, choices are rarely so clear. That’s because Satan is hard at work creating all that gray area, making it difficult to discern between foolishness & wisdom. The pro-Choice movement plays that to a T, never once mentioning the rights or the dreams of the human being that gets eliminated.
Of all the gifts that God gives, time is one of the more difficult to use to God’s glory. How are we choosing to spend the time we are blessed with? Focusing on ourselves, we may choose to work hard at a career, neglecting time in prayer, Bible study or in worship. We may rationalize that we are providing for our families because after all, that is important & good.
It is easy to get our priorities in the wrong order. Perhaps, we convince ourselves that once we start making more money, get a bigger house, or pay down some debt, then we’ll have time to spend with God & be active in church. What’s happening is that we are living in that gray area where poor choices are often made. We do what we want because we talk ourselves into believing that God is not that concerned with what I’m doing today. We know that God is patient so we think He’ll wait for us to get around to fulfilling His purpose for us. When we stop trying to please God & give Him glory, we are elevating ourselves to God’s level by deciding what we want God to accept. Satan is crafty & He skews our thoughts.
Thinking about Joshua’s choice to serve God, we might be led to focus on what God wants & what we are able to do about it. Yahweh alone enables us to give Him glory. We need to live above what others think about what we are doing. Joshua clung to God’s will for himself & his family, carrying out his Lord’s purpose – above what others thought.
I’m reminded of the story about three teens who were talking of their future plans. One of them talked of being a doctor because he could have fame & people would come to him & be helped. He saw becoming a doctor as a way to gain popularity & recognition. His purpose in life was to be famous.
Another listened & decided he might like to be a doctor too. He described the car his doctor drove, a Ferrari, & shared that being a doctor would mean he could have the Lamborghini he admired. He then started into a dissertation listing all the things his parents couldn’t afford that he would have. His purpose in life was to gain wealth.
The third teen was confused. He thought a few moments & then shared his desire to do something that God wanted him to do. Maybe that meant becoming a doctor, or maybe he would be a nurse. His purpose in life was to glorify God through serving others. As he shared his purpose of serving people, the other teens laughed at him.
We may be laughed at or ridiculed, yet there is no ambiguity in the theme verse from 1 Corinthians, “…do all to the glory of God.” It’s easy to recognize that we give God glory in our prayers & in our time here, but God created us to give Him glory in all things. To serve God & to give Him glory involves relationships with family & neighbors, our time at work & in school, our time in church, & our leisure activities. God is glorified when we thank Him for all of our gifts & blessings. Do we wake up each day giving God glory for the gift of that new day? Are we giving God glory for our vocation as parents, students, brothers or sisters?
We give God glory when go about our daily tasks in His name, doing the best that we can in all that we do. God is glorified when we allow Him to work through us. In these ways the Holy Spirit furthers the kingdom, serves the common good, & glorifies our Creator.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily & follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) Being a disciple & a faithful steward is to practice self-denial. Jesus taught that denying self is an essential aspect of the Christian life.
Born in this sinful state of putting ourselves first, we need the Holy Spirit’s power to resist our natural desire to be self-centered rather than God-centered. On our own, we are hopeless, but, the Holy Spirit through Word & Sacrament enables us to use our lives & blessings according to God’s plan for His glory.
As transformed people, we serve the Lord as He equips & motivates us. We have the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation, & we have the life-saving Word “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction & for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
The ascended Christ, seated at the right hand of God, is working all things for good for those called according to His purpose. Perfect, we will never be, but we have the assurance that, because of Jesus’ death & resurrection, we are forgiven.
We fail again & again to give God glory in all that we do, but God knows our hearts. He will pick us up & encourage us to keep going in our pursuit to give Him the glory that He deserves. It is fitting in the 1st week of this stewardship emphasis Stewards Living with Purpose that we are focusing on the purpose “…do all to the glory of God.” We understand that the purpose of life is not just fun, friends, & fulfillment, or any number of the other things we may be tempted to make our focus & purpose. No, we are stewards of God’s glory.
The theme for next week in the series Stewards Living with Purpose is “Be My Witnesses.” We are called to share the life-saving Gospel with people near & far. In two weeks, we’ll focus on our purpose of serving & helping those in need. The theme for the last week is “Generous in Every Way.”
God called us to do “All to the glory of God.” May He help us commit our time, talents & money for His purpose because the ultimate glory we can give to our Lord is trust & believe in His promise of our salvation. Amen.
O Jesus Christ, the only Son begotten of the Father, Your saving death has made us one with God & with each other. O Lamb of God, to You on high in our distress we sinners cry, have mercy on us, amen! O Holy Spirit, our delight & source of consolation, protect us from the devil’s might through Jesus, our salvation, Who by His death upon a tree has rescued us from misery: to this we hold forever. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet