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Authority Issues

“Christ Preaching at Capernaum” by Maurycy Gottlieb

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“They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath [Jesus] entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

When you mention the word “authority,” it’s likely you’ll have to qualify what you mean. Depending upon the audience’s background—and the current context—“authority” may have an extremely negative connotation. It may suggest oppression by a dictatorial governmental official, an overbearing boss, or an abusive parent. In that setting, an “authority” is a ruler—a ruler who uses you for his own advantage. And so, it’s no wonder that many of us have authority issues.

But there are good authorities as well—ones who use their authority for the benefit of others instead of themselves. This use of authority is seen as beneficial and orderly for society. Good parents, good teachers, good bosses, and good governmental officials—ones who develop trust in the people of their charge.

Jesus exercised good authority. Like other good authority figures, Jesus didn’t seek authority; it was given to Him (Matthew 28:18). In His state of humiliation, Jesus submitted Himself to the will of the Father, using His Father’s authority for the good—for the salvation—of all mankind. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus demonstrates His authority by His teaching and power over demons.

The scene is familiar. Jesus enters the city of Capernaum, a place where He lived for some time. Its situation on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and at the intersection of several important trade routes made Capernaum an ideal base for carrying the Gospel into the regions of Galilee and beyond. Besides, Capernaum was also the home of Zebedee and his sons, James and John, and the home of Peter, whose mother-in-law was living with him.

On the Sabbath following their selection to become fishers of men, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, together with Jesus, attended the synagogue service. Since synagogues had no resident ordained ministers, the rulers of the synagogue would invite some rabbi or scribe present to teach the lessons. So, it happened that Jesus was often invited to address the congregations.

The synagogue served mostly as a place of the Word. Whereas the temple was mainly a place of worship and sacrifice, the service of the synagogue would consist of prayer, reading Scripture, and an exposition of the Word. Therefore, the synagogue was the ideal place for the true Word, Jesus, to reveal Himself.

What Jesus’ specific message was on this Sabbath, Mark does not tell us; he does tell us about the impression His preaching made on the worshipers. They were amazed, for Jesus did not teach as the scribes did.

The scribes extracted rules and regulations from the Torah for almost any situation. Generation after generation of scribe passed down this oral law, which was committed to memory. Since they were the experts of this unwritten code, they were also the ones judging individual cases. They were considered the final authority on interpretation of God’s Word, particularly regarding moral living.

Jesus wasn’t preaching about endless circumstances for choosing the right behavior, but rather sin and grace. His message wasn’t “What should I do?” but rather “What has God done for me—because of what I’ve done and left undone?” Jesus was boldly preaching contrition and faith, the full counsel of God. He simply told them how it is—on no less authority than God Himself. This wasn’t just some new teaching, but a dusting off of timeless teaching. It was a teaching that through the coming of the Messiah, forgiveness would be won for helpless man. Jesus is the final authority. He is the one who in word and deed reveals to us the undeserved love of God for sinners incorporated in His own person. Through Him and His Word, God’s authority issues. His, is the final Word.

But this refreshing message of good news isn’t always received with joy and amazement, is it? Often, we see, even in quite different settings, the rejection of the good. Because of our sinful nature, we all have authority issues. We all want to have the final say, to be our own god. And the sinful world and Satan are all too eager to help us toward this deadly end.

“And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God’” (Mark 1:23-24).

At this crucial moment in Jesus’ ministry, why should there be a demon-possessed man showing up in the synagogue, that gathering place of God’s people? We might expect a holy, secure setting for Jesus’ teaching. Yet, this is the beginning of His ministry, a beginning that recalls Genesis 3 and the unanticipated appearance of Satan in the paradise of the Garden of Eden. It has been said where God builds a cathedral, Satan sets up a chapel next door.

It is not at all surprising that Satan, despite his recent defeat in the wilderness, was not ready to let such a message and such a preacher go unchallenged. It was the devil who caused this man in that synagogue to cry out against Jesus, for it is clear that this man was not speaking for himself. He could not of himself have known what he said about Christ.

However, Satan and the evil spirit that possessed this man knew who Jesus of Nazareth was and what His purpose was. They knew He was the Son of God and that He had come to destroy Satan’s hold over mankind. With his words Satan revealed himself wiser than many modern theologians. This knowledge did him no spiritual good; it only filled him with fear and trembling. He knew that He faced hell and the Gospel was not meant for him.

But Jesus wouldn’t take it anymore. Even though what the demon said was true, it certainly was no endorsement. It was like having Adolf Hitler as your character witness. Besides, Jesus was not yet ready to proclaim openly that He was the Messiah. Most of His audience would have read political aims into that word. So, Jesus shut him up. Literally, in the Greek, He “muzzled him.” Jesus says three little Greek words—that’s all it took to vanquish the wicked one. No magic show—no long incantation—just three words: Be silent and come out!

“The unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mark 1:26-27). This is what Satan and his angels most despise: to be put in their place, to be reminded that they never had, and never will have, ultimate authority. They can never be God. Jesus is God.

So, it’s a nice story and all, Jesus speaks with authority and casts out a demon, but “What has this to do with us?” you may be asking.   

I would like to go back and have you to listen more closely to the language of the unclean spirit. The spirit confronts Jesus and cries out, “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God.” Notice how it speaks in the plural: “us.” Mark clearly tells us the spirit is singular (it is “an unclean spirit”). Yet, the spirit speaks in the plural: “What have You to do with us?”

This could be a case where the spirit is one of many, like the situation of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:9). Or it could be the spirit is speaking of a realm of uncleanness. Or it could be the spirit is intentionally seeking to deceive Jesus, presenting itself as many when it is only one. I wonder, however, if the spirit could be making a bolder claim. Is it possible the unclean spirit is claiming the people in the synagogue as its own? This unclean spirit already has laid claim to this man. The man is described as, “in the unclean spirit,” and the spirit is later able to convulse him. Is it possible the unclean spirit sees things differently than we do?

We look at the synagogue and see God’s people gathering in worship. The spirit, however, sees uncleanness and lays claim to all which is unclean as its own. God’s people have gathered in worship while there is a war going on, and this war has two opponents: The Kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. There is no middle ground. You are either Satan’s or you are God’s.

When the spirit first appears in the story, Mark makes it sound like there may be a middle ground. “And immediately, there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” The synagogue belongs neither to God nor to Satan but to the people of Capernaum. The spirit then makes a claim. Its claim is that all the people gathered in worship are the spirit’s. They are unclean and cannot be in the presence of the “holy One of God.” What does God have to do with those who are unclean? Nothing. So, the spirit cries out and reveals that the people of Capernaum, gathered in worship, are under the threat of being claimed by Satan.

But then Jesus reveals who He truly is. He is more than a man from Nazareth. He is more than a prophet like Moses. He is more than a teacher with authority. He is the cosmic Christ. This is His synagogue, and these are His people. His rule is over all things, visible and invisible. His power is without equal. He has come into this world to fight against Satan and to defeat him. He will set free all the people Satan claims as His own.

How are the unclean made clean? How are the captives set free? By the gracious work of Jesus, bearing the curse of our uncleanness on the cross that He might rise and bring the blessing of God’s holiness to us in His authoritative Word.

For almost a year now, we have been experiencing the disruptive effects of COVID. One of the things that has happened is it has changed how we view our ability to gather in worship. I fear some have found worship to not be so essential. But many others have begun to see why being able to gather for worship is truly a gift. Mark’s Gospel this morning takes us one step further. He reveals the divine gift of worship. We are Christ’s Church. The One we worship is the One who has come to rescue us from the power of Satan. We live in the midst of a battle. Satan seeks to lay claim on our lives. But for us fights the valiant one: Jesus. The cosmic Christ who has come today claims us as His own.

Jesus’ authoritative teaching and power over the unclean spirits create an immediate stir among those beholding Him in the early days of His ministry in Galilee. Today, we often see the same thing. People continue to be interested in and even amazed by Jesus’ teaching, and yet many fail to depend on Him for life and salvation. By the power of His authoritative Word and Spirit, however, others are indeed brought into saving faith and life.

As He promised, the Lord our God has raised up “a prophet” like Moses, namely Jesus, our brother in the flesh. “To Him you shall listen,” because the Word of the Lord is “in His mouth” (Deut. 18:15–18). Indeed, He is more than a prophet and more than a scribe of the Scriptures; He is the incarnate Word, and He speaks “a new teaching with authority” (Mark 1:22, 27). He enters “the synagogue” of His Church and provides true Sabbath rest, using His authority to silence and cast out “even the unclean spirits” (Mark 1:21–27). By His Word of the cross, He removes the accusations of the Law and of the devil, and He cleanses our consciences before God the Father.

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sermons, Uncategorized

The Kingdom of God Enters Enemy Territory

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“After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to just start doing it.

That’s the premise behind language immersion, a technique used in bilingual education. Unlike more traditional programs, where the language is taught simply as a subject to be learned, language immersion focuses more on the second language being a tool which is used to immerse the student completely within a variety of subjects. Research has shown that language immersion provides students with overall greater language comprehension and production of the second language in a native-like manner, with greater understanding of the underlying culture as well. It’s one thing to study a language for one class period each day for a year or so. It is something else when it is experienced throughout the day, every day in different fields and settings for a few years.

The same is true for faith—it something more “caught than taught.”

Whether we like it or not, Christianity can unfortunately sometimes be reduced to a body of teachings. It may be covered in Catechism class or explored in Bible study, but it too often remains a matter of intellectual study. And when Christianity is merely a matter of doctrine, then faith becomes a matter of knowledge, a series of academic exercises, and God’s people are reduced to students going to school for an hour or two, one day a week at best.

In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus pushes us outside the classroom and into the world. He invites us to see faith as an immersion experience that forms us as disciples as we follow our Lord.

Mark sets the scene. He tells us John the Baptist has been imprisoned, a result of prophecy colliding with politics in Galilee. We find out later from Mark (6:17) that Herod Antipas, the ruling authority in Galilee, had John arrested because he had the temerity to criticize the king’s marriage to Herodias. Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great. Her present husband, Herod Antipas, was a son of Herod the Great. Her ex-husband, Philip, was also a son of Herod the Great. In other words, both of Herodias’ husbands were also her uncles.

That’s not to say, King Herod is happy with his decision—he’s afraid of John. And he doesn’t feel all that secure in his position. He’s no son of David, no legitimate heir to the throne. Truth be told, he’s not even an Israelite. And Rome has never recognized him as “king” of anything—not even the backwater region of Galilee. He’s just another puppet governor who serves at the pleasure of Caesar. So he can’t let John the Baptist stir the people up. What John preaches is all true of course, and John preaches it not to foment rebellion but rather to call Herod to repentance. But a king just can’t have critics like that speaking inconvenient truths, so he’s put him behind bars. But how will the people react? John obviously is quite popular. Will the people rise up or will they just accept the arrest of John?

To make matters worse for Herod, a man arrives in Galilee and starts proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.” It’s time for a new kingdom, says Jesus of Nazareth, and generally, a different kingdom means a different king. It sounds like the rallying cry for an insurrection, as if Jesus’ next sermon is going to be, “Let’s get rid of King Herod, so that God might rule over us instead.” And if the multitudes that love John the Baptist decide to rally behind this Jesus, then Herod could have a serious problem on his hands.

You can bet that all of Galilee, both foe and friend, are hanging on to Jesus’ words. If this Kingdom of God is at hand, then how will it come about? So, Jesus tells them. He says, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Huh. It’s not your usual revolutionary speech. It’s not “take up your arms, draw your swords, and prepare for battle.” It’s “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Repent—by the grace of God, turn from your sin. Believe in the Gospel—believe the Good News that the long-promised King has come to save you from your sin.

Every kingdom has enemies, and this new Kingdom is no different. But the enemies of this Kingdom that Jesus proclaims are not Herod or Pilate or Caesar. The enemies of this Kingdom are sin and death and devil. Sin and death and devil are not going to be defeated with swords and rebellion against human rulers. They’re going to be defeated by the shedding of the Savior’s blood on the cross. In this new Kingdom, Herod is not the enemy nor the competition. Herod is a ruler of an entirely different kingdom, and this Savior comes to redeem him, too.

Now, a king needs to have followers; and having proclaimed that this new Kingdom has come, Jesus begins to recruit. He doesn’t go after Roman soldiers, temple guards, or other trained killers. He goes for fishermen. He picks up Simon and Andrew, James and John. He’ll get a few more, like a tax-collector along the way, but His “army” consists of 12 men who generally get little respect and possess no advanced fighting skills. When one of them takes out a sword and cuts off an ear, Jesus tells him, “Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:53). No, if the Kingdom of God is about believing the Gospel, it doesn’t need an army. It needs mouths—mouths to speak the Gospel. Like fishermen, Jesus disciples are expected to draw others into the Kingdom through the proclamation of the Gospel.

There’s one more consideration—a king is nothing without a territory. But Herod doesn’t need to worry, this is a different Kingdom: it doesn’t have a set location. This Kingdom moves around. Wherever the King is, that’s where the Kingdom is. A Kingdom of repentance and faith doesn’t require land because it’s not about crops, water, steel, or other material things. Why, someone can conceivably be a penitent who believes in the Gospel, and still serve faithfully in the palace of King Herod. In fact, St. Luke lists “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager” as one of the faithful women who provided for Jesus’s ministry out of their own means (8:3).

“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus’ first words in Mark define the King and the Kingdom. Contrary Herod’s fears and the hopes of Herod’s enemies, this new Kingdom is not about conquering Herod and Caesar. It’s about conquering sin, death, and devil for all people, Herod and Caesar included. It’s not about gathering soldiers, wealth, power, or land. It’s about forgiving sins and giving eternal salvation.

Throughout the Gospels, you see that King Jesus going about the establishment of His Kingdom. He does not fight, but He speaks. He works wonders and heals; but He doesn’t say, “Now you owe Me a favor that I’ll call in later,” but rather, “Follow Me, because I have more to give.” He feeds five thousand miraculously; but He doesn’t use food as leverage to field an army. In fact, when they try to make Him a king like all the other kings of the earth, He refuses and goes on His way. Significantly, a Roman centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus does so, and He doesn’t require the centurion to switch alliances and renounce Caesar. Instead, Jesus would have the centurion be a Roman soldier and a penitent Christian at the same time.

This is a completely different King and a completely different Kingdom. He is no threat to Herod or Caesar. On the contrary, He tells people to pay their taxes to Herod and Caesar. In fact, the more people follow Jesus, the better citizens they will be for Herod and Caesar both. For they will be penitent Christians who submit to human authorities and acknowledge that they are placed there by God.

It’s so tragically ironic, then, that Jesus is crucified for being this different King. His crown on earth is made of thorns, and His throne is a cross. The accusation above His head on the cross declares Him worthy of death because He is the King of the Jews. He’s crucified on the orders of a reluctant Pilate. In fact, when Pilate interrogates Jesus, Jesus tells Pilate that Pilate has authority to rule only because He has given it to him; and then Jesus submits to Pilate’s rule and allows Himself to be killed. This is a remarkably different kind of King indeed.

If all this doesn’t set the Kingdom of God apart, this certainly does: Jesus’ death is not a defeat. It is His victory. By His death, He defeats sin and death and devil. By His sacrifice, He has salvation for all who repent and believe in the Gospel: the Gospel that God forgives them for the sake of Jesus.

With John placed in prison, Galilee was no longer a safe place for prophets. Into that unsafe space, Jesus comes, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Notice how Jesus does not retreat. In the face of political and cultural opposition, Jesus does not go off to a different part of the country. He does not begin His service where it might be calmer. He does not retreat to a place where He will be accepted. No, Jesus comes into the land that imprisons prophets and publicly begins to call His disciples there.

I find great comfort in this action of Jesus. Jesus is not threatened by political or cultural opposition. He engages it. He does this because He knows that, ultimately, He will triumph over it. After He has been killed and placed in a tomb, He will rise and reveal that His Kingdom is not of this world. His Kingdom is of God: Eternal and indestructible. Jesus rules overall. He can enter any hostile territory and claim people as His own, giving them life that is everlasting.

This is comforting for us because we have seen how our cultural setting has become hostile toward Christianity. We are not being put to death like Christians in other parts of the world, but we are publicly mocked for our beliefs on TV, censored in social media, and demonized by our more vocal critics. It makes one nervous. How can I enter into that world and live as a believer? Christianity is much easier if I just reduce it to a teaching I know and something I do for an hour or two on Sunday. But Jesus comes to us today and reminds us that He has the power to make disciples in the midst of conflict and suffering.

In doing this, Jesus does not gather those who might make His mission easier. That is, He does not gather soldiers to defend Him or wise men to explain Him or social influencers to persuade others to receive Him. No. Instead, He calls fisherman who are casting and mending their nets. “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” God makes disciples from ordinary people. It is not our gifts or our talents or our work that make us disciples but God’s work on our behalf. In Baptism, God immerses us in the death and resurrection of His Son and claims us as His own. We are now disciples, called by Jesus to follow Him.

Notice how, as we follow, Jesus forms us. These fishermen would write Gospels. They would testify before tribunals. It would take time, but God would work and shape them into the witnesses the world needs. In Christianity, we learn by doing. When we follow Jesus, we are changed. The places where we work become holy. Our lives are opportunities for others to encounter our God. Christianity becomes “personal” as we walk with Jesus into His world.

By God’s grace, discipleship is an immersion experience. In Baptism, God immerses you into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Not a part of your life is separated from Him. You are completely, totally, wholly His. And He leads you, as His disciples, into enemy territory to reclaim His fallen world, proclaiming His Word: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Sermons, Uncategorized

Look Who’s Talking: Sermon for the Sanctity of Human Life

From conception to birth and beyond, all life is beautiful! This video includes visual imagery of sperm meeting egg, zygote, embryo, fetal development and babies doing amazing things during ultrasound including 2D 3D and 4D ultrasound up to birth. truly, #lifeisbeautiful

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Last week, Aimee and I stumbled across Look Who’s Talking, the 1989 romantic comedy, starring John Travolta and Kirstie Allie. Allie plays Mollie, a young woman living in New York City who becomes pregnant during a brief affair and decides to raise her baby as a single mother. Travolta is a cab driver who takes the pregnant woman to the hospital, ends up witnessing her son Mikey’s birth, and then becomes increasingly involved in their lives. Bruce Willis provides the voice-over for Mikey, Mollie’s son, who offers humorous commentary on life from his perspective beginning from conception and going through the first year or so of his life. Through special effects, we get a realistic peek (at least for the day) into the developmental stages of a baby in the womb from conception through birth.

In our text, Psalm 139, David gives us a similar perspective of life—though much more poetic and introspective—as he meditates on God’s attributes: His omniscience, His omnipresence, His omnipotence, and His holiness, how God was involved intimately in our creation, how He knew every detail of every one of our days, even before our first one came to be.  

David’s words can be a little frightening because you quickly realize God knows all about you! He knows where you are, what you are doing, what you’re thinking, and what you’re going to say even before you say it (v. 1-4)! You also realize that there is no place you can go to escape this all-knowing God. “Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence?” David asks rhetorically (v. 7). It is almost like Psalm 139 is God’s version of George Orwell’s 1984 poster, “Big Brother Is Watching You”!

But God is not watching you as some “Big Brother in the sky” but as your Creator. God knows you because He made you. “For You formed my inward parts,” David says, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (v. 13). There is a progression here. God created you, your very essence, and then wove or knitted a covering for “you”—your body. You were uniquely “you” at the moment of your conception. Your genetic makeup, your “inmost being” was there.

We know, of course, that God does not have tiny little knitting needles that He uses inside a uterus. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, David poetically paints a picture of God’s intimate and delicate involvement in the formation of life from the moment of conception. It’s not hard for me to imagine the strands of individual DNA being interlaced, the muscles, nerves, and veins being plaited and interwoven within the tiny human body.

Weaving or knitting is delicate work. It takes concentration to make sure the right strands go in the right place to produce the pattern that will lead to a recognizable whole. The scarf that your grandma knit is not only beautiful because of the amazing pattern of the woven threads, it is beautiful and valuable because of the hands that made it. Your life is beautiful and valuable, not only because of the miraculous complexity of your body, but because of the hands of your Creator.

David is awed by the contemplation of this: “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well” (v.14). Do you know very well how amazing and miraculous you are? It doesn’t matter what you look like, or how good you are at math, or whether all your parts still work! You are the work of God’s hands! Don’t ever question your value!

David goes back to God’s intimate knowledge of us. “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (v.15). The metaphor for the womb, “woven in the depths of the earth,” recalls that God shaped us as He shaped Adam, and that we, too, are dust and to dust we will return (Genesis 2:7; 3:19). David’s point is clear: God knew us even before we were born.

This thought is repeated in verse 16 with an addition: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there none of them.” God not only knew you while you were being formed inside your mother, but God also had a plan and purpose for your life! It just makes you want to say, “Wow!”

That’s how David continues. “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and am still with You” (v. 17-18). Just think about it: you are always in the thoughts of God! You have been from before the very beginning of your life. God knows you because He was intimately involved in your formation.

That brings us back to the idea that God is watching over you. Yes, He sees and knows everything you do and that’s not always good! But don’t be afraid! God has provided a means of forgiveness. His Son, Jesus, took our place from the very beginning. He, too, grew and developed in the womb of His mother, Mary. He lived a perfect life in our place. Then He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died in our place on the cross. He satisfied God’s justice and endured the punishment for sin for all people for all time—including you! Through faith in Jesus, whom God brought back to life from the dead, you are seen by God as holy and pure. No, it’s not frightening to think about God knowing and watching you. In fact, it’s very comforting. As the work of His hands, you are precious to Him!

In addition to describing so amazingly God’s involvement in human life from the very beginning, Psalm 139 also provides a platform upon which to face a terrible reality: Not everyone sees the preciousness of human life in the womb. There are those who favor invading this “knitting room” of God and killing the life God creates there. Abortion has been around so long that many have become desensitized to what it really is and does. Even many Christians ask, “What’s so wrong with the right to choose?”

It all depends upon what is being chosen. Everyone knows that this phrase is not referring to a woman’s right to choose a new dress or new shoes. It refers to choosing an abortion, the intentional taking of an innocent human life. It’s a biological fact that a genetically unique human life begins at conception. The heart begins to beat at around 24 days. Brain waves can be recorded at 43 days. Movement begins at 45 days. By eight weeks every organ is present and functioning. The rest of the time in the womb is spent in further growth and development. It is important to know that it is not something that is killed in an abortion. It is someone, someone God created and redeemed.

But that little one knitted in the womb is not the only victim, here. The “right to choose” deeply affects those who take part in that choice. Abortion has physical, emotional, and spiritual effects on the women and men involved. It is not as harmless and casual an event as many insist. Someone dies in an abortion. Someone else is deeply wounded. This is important for us to remember: The still living victims of an abortion choice who regret their part in such a choice, also need to hear the Good News of forgiveness and life available for penitent sinners in the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even as you champion the value of each human life, make sure you share the Gospel!

David’s pondering words also have applications to sanctity of life issues involving biotechnology. When stem cells are taken from a human embryo, a human being, a little girl or a little boy, dies. This is fundamental biology and yet it must be denied by those favoring embryonic stem cell research.

It is denied in the “size” argument. “The embryo destroyed for its stem cells is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence,” they will argue, as if the value of a human life is determined by his or her size. But every human being, including anyone using that phrase, was once that small. Regardless of size, it is someone not something that is destroyed when embryonic stem cells are taken.

The humanity of the embryo is denied in the “therapeutic” argument as well. “Embryonic stem cells hold the potential to cure devastating diseases,” we are told. This is a true statement although there have been no cures to date, and none are really expected for a decade at least. But even if a cure were found tomorrow, killing human beings to cure human beings is not a moral option.

The humanity of the embryo is also denied in the “good as dead” argument. This is the argument that even some who claim to be “pro-life” have used. “These embryos in fertility clinics are going to die anyway. Why not use them to preserve life in others?” But we don’t talk about harvesting body parts from inmates on death row or little girls and boys with terminal cancer to preserve life in others.

Beware of being led astray by such rhetoric. We are better served and serve better when we are tuned to the poetry of God. “For You created my inmost being; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Every human life is hand-crafted by God Himself. That gives it priceless value, no matter at what stage, what condition.  

In 1920, two German physicians published a book called The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life. In it, they argued that “death assistance” should be extended to “empty shells of human beings” such as those with brain damage, some psychiatric conditions, and mental retardation. They argued that money spent to care for “meaningless life” could be better used by those socially and physically fit. History demonstrates that such thinking led to brutal Nazi experiments and death camps, forced sterilization programs in some European countries, and radical “eugenics” movements in Britain and the United States.

The value of human life does not depend upon what someone is able to do or not to do. God creates life. God made the first two human beings in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Even though this image was lost when sin came into the world, this original, lofty position still gives value to human life (Genesis 9:6).

First, when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28), He set in motion a biological process for procreation. But God is still involved in this process. Remember: You are handmade by God! Everyone is. Whether you are an embryo growing in a womb, a young man in his prime, or a grandma in a nursing-home bed—every human life has this God-given value.

Second, God redeemed human life. God loved what He had made with His hands so much that He sent His Son to pay the price to buy all human life back from sin and death. You know what that price was. It was not with “silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Every human being is a human being for whom Jesus Christ died. The embryo in the Petri dish, the child with Down syndrome yet to be born, the young woman who is brain damaged, the man or woman worn down by the guilt and shame of a previous abortion decision, the elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, have all been bought with a price. That price gives them value regardless of their stage of development or their condition.

Finally, God gives special value to those He calls as His own. God’s grace given in Baptism flows to the infirm as well as to the healthy, the mentally retarded little girl is as much a child of God as the pastor who baptizes her. Value comes from what God can do in and through His children, not from their capabilities. We minimize God’s power when we say He cannot be at work in and give value to the grandma who has lived 95 years but no longer remembers her family.

An elderly pastor living in a nursing home struggled each day to care for his wife, who had lost virtually all physical strength and the ability to communicate. Despite these troubles, her husband visited with her each day, recalling the life of love and commitment they still shared. They little realized that their simple gestures were carefully and thoughtfully observed by a young man working at the nursing home. The couple’s loving interaction moved the young man to consider dedicating himself to the pastoral ministry.

“Why is God keeping me around?” “The quality of Grandma’s life just isn’t what it used to be.” You may have said similar things. Take note: such statements reflect a view of the value of life based on people’s abilities rather than on God’s ability. Assigning value to human life based on mental or physical capacity can lead to the foreboding conclusion that maybe there is life not worthy of life. But this is not so! All life is worthy of life because God makes it so.

This psalm gives a clear answer to today’s controversy about the value of human life and when life begins clearly condemning abortion and other assaults on developing children. And yet, this psalm, above all, proclaims God’s love, which He expresses in His personal care and involvement in all of His creation. God’s knowledge, power, and presence were manifest most fully when He Himself assumed our substance, with a human body knit together in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and grew up to bear in that body God’s wrath for sin at the cross.

David recognizes that without forgiveness he too would fall under the wrath of the holy God. So, he circles back to the beginning of the psalm, closing not with pride but with humility. We would do well to end the same. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (v. 23-24).

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Some of this sermon was adapted from a presentation by Rev. James Lamb, former director of Lutherans For Life.

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The Voice of the Lord Is over the Waters

“The Baptism of Christ” by Guido Reni

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“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:3-4).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

A common theme of our Psalm, Old Testament reading, and Gospel for today, the Baptism of Our Lord, is the mention of the voice of the Lord over the waters. The creation event begins with the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters. In addition to creation, the Psalm speaks of the Flood where the powerful voice of the Lord was over the many waters He used to cleanse and recreate His world. In the Baptism of Jesus, we see the waters of the Jordan and the presence of the Spirit in the form of a dove as the voice of the Lord speaks well of His beloved Son. Together, our readings provide a beautiful picture of what God has done in restoring His creation through His Son. Christ has come to make all things new (including you and me), and water and Word and the Spirit are used for His new creation just as it is was for the original.

Let’s look at this a little closer.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. It’s interesting how the first two verses of Genesis read. God the Father is there, creating everything out of nothing. He’s not alone, either. The Spirit of God is present, too; and we know from John 1 that the Son of God is present, because all things are made through Him. So, the account of creation begins with the presence of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It’s worth also noting the first created thing that’s specifically mentioned. You’ve got an earth that is without form and void, and then you’ve got water. The Spirit of God is hovering over the face of the waters.

God goes on to create, and He creates by speaking. “Let there be light,” He says, and there’s light. He’ll soon call for dry land and seas, and there they’ll be. Likewise, sun and moon, plants and animals, birds and fish. He’ll take extra care in making man and woman, but He’ll speak all the same to create them. It’s a phenomenal miracle, this way of creating through the voice of the Lord. Our words, at best, are simply informative. They can give information, but they can’t cause anything to happen. But the voice of the Lord is different. When God speaks, His Word is effective or causative. He causes things to happen simply by speaking. He creates things simply by commanding them into existence.

And what He creates is good—and good means “holy” and “perfect.” When God declares something to be good, He means that it couldn’t be better—it is just as He designed it to be.

But then we all know what happened to this good creation. The voice of the serpent slyly asks: “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). With a few words, the devil tried to undo everything God did. He tried to destroy Adam and Eve and all the birds and trees and fish and land. But the devil is not God. The Lord is able to call things that did not exist and bring them into creation with His voice. The devil cannot. As hard as the devil tries, he can’t just dissolve us away into nothingness. But the devil was able to mess up all of creation a bit. He was able to twist this perfect creation into something that looked a little more like him—a world wrenched with disobedience, people filled with thoughts of only themselves, men and women whose lives will ultimately end in death.

In Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, he says, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses” (Luther’s Small Catechism, p.15). This is true. Our loving Father has done all these wonderful things for us.

But as fallen creatures in this world, we could almost add a little something about what the devil does. “I believe that the devil has tried to destroy me and all creatures; that he has given me my cancer and my heart attack; he has given my eyes lust for pornography, my ears a love to hear gossip, and all my members he has plagued with wicked actions. My reason has been plagued by madness, and my senses slowly fail as this body of mine sinks closer and closer to death.”

Luther never wrote that creed. But as people who have been made by God, we must also admit that we have been twisted by the devil into things God never intended.

What has happened to God’s creation is so sad. How sad that His beautiful creation, His perfect people have been twisted into what we are. And God aches over this world and what has happened. He really does. God cries over what has happened in creation. God weeps every time we sin. The angels shudder every time we forget God; the saints cry when we forfeit life for death.

And so, Jesus came to be baptized in the Jordan.

The Baptism of Jesus has a lot in common with the creation of the world. God is present there. The Son stands in the river, baptized. The Spirit of God hovers about the waters as He descends upon Jesus like a dove. The voice of the Lord thunders over the waters: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The presence of the triune God there is astounding. Creation is no longer good but corrupted by sin and dying. Rather than kick creation to the curb, though, God tears the heavens open and enters creation to save.

He saves by His own sacrifice, and that’s what the Baptism of Jesus is about. There’s no reason for Jesus to be baptized for Himself. Baptism is for sinners, and Jesus isn’t sinful. But He’s baptized with all those sinners because He’s taking their place. He’s going to bear their sins and their infirmities to the cross, and that journey begins in earnest at His Baptism.

He saves by speaking—speaking His powerful, effective Word that makes things happen. Usually when Jesus heals somebody, He does so merely by speaking. One might say that when Jesus heals, He is creating. He is creating health where sin has corrupted flesh, and He is creating life where death has put people into the grave. Why does Jesus do these miracles? There are a few reasons for the miracles He performs, but perhaps the most important is so that you may know He has the power to forgive sins. See, when Jesus says to someone, “I forgive you,” that’s His powerful, effective Gospel. By His Word, He takes sins away. He creates faith and makes life. The voice of the Lord makes sinners good—perfect, sinless, and holy in the eyes of God.

That is why you rejoice in your Baptism, no matter how long ago it took place. Like Jesus’ Baptism, your Baptism also has a lot in common with Genesis 1.

The triune God—who created the heavens and the earth—was present at your Baptism for you. You were baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit;” and the Lord Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). The Lord was there. But rather than just zap you with His grace, He worked through means as usual—just like He uses the sun to channel light to you, He used water and His Word to baptize you.

The Spirit of God was present at your Baptism to wash away your sins, to give you forgiveness, faith, and life (Titus 3:5, 6). The Son of God was there, joining you to His death and resurrection, saying, “You don’t have to die for your sin because I’ve already died for your sin” (Romans 6:1-11). The Father was there, too; and for the sake of His Son who went to the cross in your place, the voice of the Lord goes out. He says, “You are My beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” For the sake of Jesus, you are now a son of God and an heir of eternal life.

In your Baptism, you were born again. You are now a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16), because the same triune God who created all things in the beginning went to the cross to redeem His creation. Then He went to the font to create you anew. He drew that close to forgive you, specifically and personally. Nor has He left to watch from a distance. It is no coincidence that when Jesus instituted Baptism in Matthew 28, He promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Having created you anew, He sustains you with His Word and His Supper until He delivers you from this corrupted world to life everlasting.

So today, we celebrate not just Jesus’ Baptism, but we also celebrate that we have been united to Jesus through Baptism. Jesus has placed all of you in the water of Baptism, pulled you out, and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Your bodies are now remade. Your bodies won’t just be filled with cancer; they will be filled with My body, which promises you an Easter resurrection. Your souls do not have to lust anymore; now you can long for a life lived in Me. Your ears are now new; they will be used to hear My Word and to crave hearing the Good News of salvation. And your senses, even though they will slow and fail as death approaches, will tingle on the day of resurrection as all My children are raised from the dust of death to eternal life.”

Through water and the Word God created all things, and now through water and the Word you have been remade. God hasn’t abandoned you. He hasn’t forgotten the pains you have. He has called you to be new people in Him. And you are. You are new. You are forgiven. You are now alive, even though you were dead. In Christ, you will live even though you will die. The devil has tried so hard to destroy God’s creation, but he has failed. He has failed because God has not abandoned you. God has not left you. And God never will.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters. The sound of His voice brings forth creation, shakes the mountains and trees, and unleashes the great flood that destroyed the earth. Left to ourselves, we sinners might be destroyed by the power of the Lord’s holy, powerful voice. Yet “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God came to us in Jesus to speak His love and grace. In Baptism, the voice of the Lord is over the waters, flood and voice combine to cleanse us. Hearing the gracious voice of the Lord, we join heaven and earth in praise.

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The Lord sits enthroned as King forever. May the Lord give strength to His people! May the Lord bless His people with peace! Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy! You are forgiven for all your sins. How?

In the name of the triune God who created all things: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Have You Found Jesus?

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And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.

“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been searching for You in great distress.’And He said to them, ‘Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?’ And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:39–52).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

There’s a cartoon that makes the rounds occasionally. Two clean-cut men in dress pants, short-sleeve white shirts, and ties are standing at the open door. They ask, “Have you found Jesus?” The woman who answers the door replies, “We’re Lutherans. We never lost Him.”

But Mary and Joseph did!

It was the annual feast of the Passover, the feast that celebrated the redemption of the people of Israel from Egypt. It was the most important of the Jewish festivals, and the Law required all males to attend. Mary and Joseph and Jesus went up to Jerusalem as was their custom.

At the conclusion of the Passover feast, Mary and Joseph headed back to Nazareth, evidently thinking that Jesus was among the group of pilgrims traveling together. But at nightfall the boy was nowhere to be found. A frantic search began for their missing son, one which ended three days later when Jesus was discovered in the temple courts. These courtyards surrounded the temple sanctuary and were used as a place for instruction and study of God’s Word.

Jesus was making quite an impression on the crowd that had gathered. Here was no ordinary boy; His questions and answers showed superior knowledge and understanding. Mary and Joseph were also astonished—and a bit perturbed—when they found Him. This is evident from Mary’s words: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”

Any parent who has suffered the trauma of a missing child can well imagine what Mary and Joseph experienced. How guilty Mary must have felt for failing to keep closer watch over this son entrusted to her care by the Lord.

The words Jesus speaks to His mother here are the first recorded in any of the gospels. Mary had asked Him a question. He responds with a double question: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” In other words, “I wasn’t lost. I was right here, where I was supposed to be, at My Father’s house. You were just looking for Me in the wrong places.”

And isn’t that true for you and me, as well? The times when it seems we can’t find Jesus, isn’t it always because we’re looking in the wrong places? Places He has not promised to be?

Some look to Mysticism, the belief that direct knowledge of God can be attained through subjective experiences of God or something godlike. Mysticism, then, is nothing more than the worship of your emotions.

You know the problem with that. Emotions are volatile and unreliable. One minute you’re on the top of the mountain; the next, in the bottom of the deepest, darkest valley. Emotions can be manipulated and manufactured with savvy marketing and psychological tricks. Mysticism says you will find Jesus in your heart. But all you ever end up finding if you look there is yourself—your own sinful desires, your own insecurities, your own self-justification.

Emotions are a wonderful gift of the created world. God made them for us. They are part of being human. But there is an enormous difference between believing feelings are a gift from God and believing feelings are God. Feelings can be good, but feelings are never the Gospel. Rules and traditions, methods and disciplines that teach that your emotions are the source of God’s revealing of Himself to you confuse Jesus Christ with you. As exciting as those kinds of promises might sound, ignore them.

Another avenue to which people turn to look for Jesus is Moralism, the belief that access to God can be achieved through self-improvement. The fascinating strategy of Moralism is that he does not tempt you with evil. Instead, he tempts you with good. With your own fondest dreams, with all your best aspirations for a more perfect world, Moralism promises that you hold in the works of your hands the power to make it all come true. No future possibility is too great. There is nothing you cannot achieve.

Eventually, you’ll find yourselves falling into one of Moralism’s two dangerous ditches. Realizing you can never measure up to your own standards (let alone, God’s standards), you may fall into despair, give up trying altogether. Or, perhaps even worse, you may fool yourself into thinking you’re getting along quite well. But even if that were somewhat true, Moralism means you’re trying to clean the outside until it is spic-and-span in the hopes that a shiny exterior will help you  forget that on the inside you are full of curses and bitterness (Romans 3:14).   

Moralism promises you will find Jesus in the works of your hands. But God is never found in what you do. God is found in what Jesus has done for you with His birth, His life, His suffering and death, with His glorious ascension, and with the current preaching of who He is and what He has done for you.  

Another place people mistakenly look for Jesus is Rationalism, the belief that contact with God can be found through the clarity of your observations or the consistency of your logic. Rationalism, then, is nothing more than the worship of reason. It is the belief that the ritual of test and trial will lead to an Enlightenment of all mankind.

We see this today in the elevation of science. “Trust the Science,” we are told. “Don’t be a Science denier.” Now, don’t get me wrong. Science is a good gift from God. The pursuit of knowledge has provided many advancements in quality and length of life. But science is not the answer to all questions. And it makes a poor god, when Science is elevated to the be-all and end-all to all our problems.

Rationalism pushes aside any question of good and evil for pragmatic answers that serve its own purposes. The sad reality is, all science aside, Rationalism will believe anything so long as God did not say it. Postmodern people are willing to believe human life was seeded on earth by aliens billions of years ago. They are willing to say that boy are girls or girls are boys if that’s what they want to be, that life in the womb is only a human baby if it is wanted. They tell stories about how one day man will merge with computer and overcome the grave altogether. Postmodern rationalists will even believe the “secret” that the universe is made up of an energy field holding all things together, which you can manipulate by focusing the thoughts of your mind.

Rationalism, in the end, is anything but reasonable. All these outlandish things are believed, taught, and confessed in the human search for a reasonable explanation for our problems. On this quest, we are no longer merely discoverers but creators. We are the shapers, the makers of our identities, the authors of the future that ought to be, the definers of the image of God. But see. Now, we’re not talking about reason, logic, or science at all. Now, we’re just making stuff up and calling it “true.”

Many seek Jesus in Prosperity. Prosperity is the belief that the way God feels about you is measured by how good your life is right now. Prosperity, then, is nothing more than worship of health, wealth, and success—what was summed up in the New Testament by the name, Mammon (a Greek word for money), a symbol for all forms of idolatry, which is rooted in the coveting of the things of this world.

Given all the bad press of Mammon, we’ve dressed her up and changed her name to Prosperity. And she is more dangerous than ever!

Where Moralism, Mysticism, and Rationalism have certainly wreaked havoc on society, not to mention on authentic Christian spirituality, they were never quite free within the confines of churches. For every Christian scholar whom Rationalism convinced to dismiss biblical inerrancy or the historicity of the Bible, there were five good men who refused to allow such rubbish to be preached from their pulpits. But today, it no longer so. Prosperity has waltzed right into the churches and pastors and laity alike have rushed to embrace her.

Prosperity, is the devil’s same old lie, only packaged more seductively. If she came out and preached, “You can find God in all the many material things of this world,” most people would look at her like she was crazy. “Of course, you can’t find God in stuff. That’s silly and superstitious. My iPhone is metal and plastic. If God exists, He is somewhere else, cheering me on and planning how to help me get the next iPhone as soon as it comes out.”

Outright lies never work as good as half-truths. So, Prosperity doesn’t have to come out on national TV and say something as audacious as “Give Jesus a try for forty days and see if He doesn’t give you health, wealth, and purpose” before you can know she’s taken the lead. You can spot her even when she’s playing it cool and saying nothing more than “Hey! Look at me. Don’t you want to be like me?” It’s always the same enticing tease that, against all odds and contrary to all human history, you can find total, unlimited, safe, health, wealth, and positive energy right here, right now. You can live your dreams. You can make it last.

“That’s right. The Bible says so. You can do all things through God who strengthens you,” her disciples say, twisting Scripture so much out of context that you need to look for a chiropractor.

It should never be a surprise to Christians when we see the world going after such things. What other hope do the children of this age have than to get as much out of this life as possible? But what should surprise us—what should upset us—is to see a vast majority of American “Christian” churches preaching this same utopian quest as if an abundance of wealth and success in this world was the central message of Jesus and His Scriptures. Even the best secular PR agents in the world couldn’t honestly spin that kind of message out of the Man who taught His disciples that friendship with this world is enmity with God (James 4:4).

The lust for Prosperity does funny things to people, and churches are no different. Caught up in the desire to enjoy her company, we imagine that once we get there, once people see us with her, we’ll be even better at winning friends for Jesus. Our congregation will grow like gangbusters!

“It’s all for Jesus and His mission,” we tell ourselves. For even the best of us, this means doing anything we can to hang around with her. If it means selling out an old conviction here or a cherished notion there, then so be it. With a few vague words about “the Spirit’s leading” and “having a heart for Jesus,” an entire congregation—even an entire church body—can willingly jettison their whole history and system of beliefs in hopes of being the one Prosperity smiles at next. Infatuated with dreams of a better experience in this life now, we forget why we are here in the first place. We forget we aren’t here to fit in. We are here precisely because we do not fit in. We’ll never be the popular guys.

We are aliens and strangers (Ephesians 2:19). We will never fit in. If we ever see that we’ve started doing the same things everyone else is doing, and saying the same things everyone else is saying, then we’ve done anything but become all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:22). We’ve become nothing to no one but ourselves, a shadow cast by the image of the world, when we were supposed to be a city of light set high on a hill (Matthew 4:14).

All human attempts to find Jesus on our own, all of our experiences, all of our studies, all of our sociology and strategy, every new or old measure and excitement, every single thing in this world cannot bring an unbeliever to Christ. Only Christ can bring a man to Christ, and Christ has spoken about how He plans to do that.

Do you want to find Jesus now? Then don’t look for Him within yourself or the things of this world. Believe His words: I baptize you (1 Peter 3:21). Take, eat. Take, drink. I am here (1 Corinthians 10:16). I am the Word made flesh (John 6:55). I am the source of living water (John 4:10). I am the Bread from heaven (John 6:51). I am your root, your portal, your rebirth (John 15:1; 10:9; 11:25). I am with you always (Matthew 28:20). Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am among you (Matthew 18:20).  

Have you found Jesus? He’s never been lost, you know. He’s right here where He has promised to be. In His Word, preached and heard. In Holy Baptism, the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. In His Holy Supper, where He gives you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Through these means of grace Jesus comes to you with His gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy! You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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