2020:Sundays in Pentecost

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Released From the Law

  • Introduction: Paul’s married woman analogy in our Epistle reading for today is a very interesting way of presenting our freedom in Christ that we have because of His innocent death and resurrection from that death.
    • To recall, Paul started out Chapter 7 with the broad statement that the Law is only binding on a person while they live.  That’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?  I don’t have to worry about speed limits if I’m pushing up daisies from 6ft under.
    • But that isn’t what Paul had in mind.  He was not thinking of secular laws on the books that would be enforced by the police.  He was writing about the Law of the Old Testament.
      • To make a related observation; marriage in our nation has been redefined in a secular way.  I recall reading a few years ago about three people, two lesbian females, and one heterosexual male joining in something of a marriage arrangement. This occurred out in the open in some city of the Bay Area in California (where else?).  That was not long after the Supreme Court ruled that state Constitutions which an amendment defining marriage being between one man and one woman was suddenly somehow unconstitutional.  That was literally 5yrs ago almost to the day.
        • In the interview, the women were adamant that this was not a relationship of a man with two wives.  That would be polygamy.  This was a marriage of each person to each other.  The word for that is a “polyamorous” relationship.  To them, I imagine that sort of relationship should be the “law” like homosexual couples are now law.  In trying to locate that article for this sermon, I saw a newer article on the BBC on-line[1] about a “throuple” in Florida, planning a wedding for this month. They were concerned it was not legal, but they have optimism that the day is coming when it will be legal. It’s hard to argue against their optimism, considering the amount of back-sliding away from the Lord’s word we have seen in the past few years.
      • Homosexuality, polygamy, and polyamorous relationships were probably even more prevalent in Paul’s time.  Nonetheless, he makes a case at the beginning of Rom Ch#7 that if a woman is legally married to a man, she is legally bound by the Lord’s word to remain with her husband so long as he lives (and vice versa).  However, if he dies, she is free from that Law and may seek out another husband.  The Sixth Command, “You shall not commit adultery[2]”, is the particular Law Paul was implying.  This Commandment no longer applies if one of the marriage partners passes away.  If she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
    • But, is that the extent of what Paul meant?  And, what does that mean for us?  These are questions we will explore further in our message for today.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for the liberty You have given us from the Law.  You reconciled us through Your one and only Son, with whom we died on the cross, and with whom we now live eternally.  Our relationship with You, Heavenly Father, is restored because of what Your faithful Son has done for us.  Send Your Spirit to remind us we do not have to worry about our sins, and whether they distance us from You because of them.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background:  In v4 of our text, Paul expanded upon the married woman analogy.  We read - Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.  How is it that we somehow died and therefore were released from the Law?
    • We talk about this a lot in Lutheran Theology, but Jesus was a substitute in our place, when He took our sins upon Himself on the cross.  Think about that: what kind of a God do we worship that looked upon our hopeless situation of never being able to lead a sin-free life. That would forever bar us from heaven. So God figured out something that would cleanse us from sin.
      • To digress for a moment, I hope no one here thinks they are sin-free.  There are religions which teach that you work on righteousness all your life and eventually no longer sin.  In contrast, the Apostle John made it clear - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us[3].  
      • But, God the Father heaped all our lies, cheats, and steals onto Jesus.  Jesus lived a perfect life.  Doesn’t it seem a bit unfair to make Jesus who knew no sin take on our sins and the sins of everyone else onto Him?  The burden of sin was so great that Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[4] That was Almighty God yelling out to Almighty God the Father, “what’s the deal, that you turn Your face from me?!”  This was not easy for either person of the Trinity.
      • Not long after Jesus said that, He died.  Believers took His lifeless body down from the cross and put it into a tomb that no one had been buried in up to that time. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and in the subsequent 40 days after, appeared to several hundred people, including the disciples.
      •  
      • To make a long story short: our sins are gone because of Jesus!  He fulfilled the Law, so there is no reason for feeling guilty about whatever sins you have committed.  Like the married woman in Paul’s analogy, you are no longer bound under the Law to do this or that.
      • The only sin you can commit is the sin of denying that Jesus did this work of salvation.  That is a sin against the Holy Spirit, because also at your baptism, you received the Holy Spirit.  He testifies in your soul of the need for this saving grace, and the fact that you have received this grace.  We took on the righteousness of Christ at our baptism, so that when God the Father sees you, He sees what Jesus did for you.  He sees a soul justified through Christ.
  • Meaning:  This is the point in our message when we can now consider the verse of the day repeated here from the NASB instead of the ESV read earlier from Rom 7:6 – 6But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter[6].  What does this mean to us regarding the way we are supposed to live?
    • The first phrase to consider is “serve in newness of the Spirit.”  We need to forsake our old sinful ways of doing things. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world is doing, we need to stop in our sinful ways.  As I mentioned at the beginning of our message for today, marriage in our nation and around the globe is being redefined away from God’s perfect definition of a marriage being between one man and one woman.  We need to hold true to God’s definition of marriage in our personal life.  Jesus said, just looking at another person with wishful or lustful eyes is breaking the Sixth Commandment[7].  That’s the old way of living.
      • Paul defines this “serving in newness of the Spirit” in another of his writings, this time in Galatians - 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law[8]
    • Does this mean we should be practicing Christian piety to the point of perishing in our righteousness?  King Solomon cautioned about this in what he wrote by inspiration in the Book of Ecclesiastes - 15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. 16 Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?
      • Before you stop there and draw the conclusion that Solomon is encouraging you to ignore God’s Law, we continue - 17 Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18 It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them[9].
      • Classic Lutheran theology teaches there are three uses of the Lord’s Law.  The Law is a curb in the sense that we refrain from doing certain things because there will be consequences if we do.  The Law is a mirror when we use it to look into it and see a sinner staring back at us.  We deceive ourselves if we don’t see someone staring back who is a sinner. The third use of the Law is to use it as a guide on how to live.  King Solomon’s inspired advice is to grab hold of the Gospel and not let go of the Law. You will stay in touch with both and avoid the extremes of either one.
    • Someone fully relieved they don’t have to worry about the Law anymore, should be very thankful at a minimum.  And toward leading a new life in the Spirit, the advice from our Lord is - go and sin no more.
      • In John Ch#8, Jesus was confronted with a woman caught in adultery.  This woman obviously was not in tune with what we talked about concerning marriage and the 6th Commandment.  The crowd wanted her stoned which was the penalty written in the “law” for the sin of adultery.  Jesus said to the crowd, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The entire crowd eventually walked away from stoning her.  Jesus then turned to her and asked - 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.[10]
  • Conclusion: If I had to sum up what we learned on today, it’s that we should live under the Gospel with a circumcised heart.  The Gospel message is that there is atonement for everything you have done wrong, and everything you neglected that should have been done.  A circumcised heart is one that that looks at all the Lord has done for it, and out of love, does what is pleasing in the sight of the Lord. The best way to know what pleases the Lord is to learn His Law, and put it into practice – not because you have to, but because you want to.  Amen.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-40655103

[2] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 2017 p.14

[3] 1Jn 1:8 quoted from biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+jn+1&version=ESV

[4] Mat 27:46b quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27&version=ESV

[5] Col 2:11-14 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+2&version=ESV

[6] Rom 7:6 from the NASB as quoted from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/rom/7/1/t_conc_1053006

[7] Mat 5:27-28

[8] Gal 5:16-18  as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gal+5&version=ESV

[9] Ecc 7:15-18 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ecc+7&version=ESV

[10] John 8:10-11 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+8&version=ESV

Treasured Possession (Exodus 19:5)

  • Introduction: At the end of last November, there was a message about being God’s most treasured possession.  It was from Mal 3:17 – 17 “And they are mine, says the Lord Almighty, in the day when I make my treasured possession, and I will choose them as a man fashions to choose his son who serves him. (CSRV)
    • You may recall we handed out a business card, with two Greek words which had their definitions in English, one on each side of the card. 
      • On one side of the card was the Greek word, περιποίησιν.  This word essentially means to make around or complete. In other words, working around something in a 360° circle until it is complete.  God will make His people complete.  They will be perfect once again as they were when Adam was first created.
      • When the card was flipped over, you saw the Greek word περιούσιος.  This word means a possession of abundance.  This is the Greek word used in Ex 19 when God made the Sinai Covenant with His people that if they obey His word, they will be His prized possession, and He will be their God.
    • Our OT reading for today was a portion of Ex 19 which included the Greek word, περιούσιος.  Now, before you settle in for a nap thinking I’m going to preach the same message, what I want to do on today is go through all of the five instances throughout the OT where this same Greek word appears, and relate it to our experience of the tribulations of 2020 (so far).
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for choosing us to be Yours.  You made us Your treasured possession, and chose us as a man fashions to choose his son who serves him.   Send Your Spirit to remind us of Your good and gracious will and the plans You have for all who follow You.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background:  Two months after God inflicted the Ten Plagues onto Egypt and redeemed His people Israel from slavery, God said to the Israelites through Moses: 5And now, if you will indeed hear My voice and guard my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession from all the nations, for all the earth is mine. (Ex 19:5, CSRV)  That was said to the Israelites about 3500yrs ago.  Is there any chance we can also be the Lord’s treasured possession?
    • ‘Glad you asked!  Let’s review for a moment from whom the Israelites descended.  Moses & Aaron were brothers sired by their father Amram. Amram’s father was Kohath.  The father of Kohath was Levi.  The rest of these names you will probably remember. Levi was the son of Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Jacob’s father was Isaac, who was the son of Abraham and Sarah.
    • Genealogies listed in the bible are actually important, because in some cases, we get to see the fulfillment of a promise made by God.  For instance, Abraham was promised by God that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  This promise was made to Abraham when he was already 75yrs old and childless.  Despite Abraham’s complaint to the Lord that he was childless, God made it clear there will be a son who comes from Abraham’s own body.  With that, we read from Gen 15:6 - And he believed the Lord, and [the Lord] accounted it to [Abraham] as righteousness.
      • It may be hard to believe, but from that promise, the descendants of Abraham became about 2,000,000 in number by the time Moses & Aaron were called by God to lead His most treasured possession out of slavery and into the Promised Land.   Two million sounds like a number of descendants like the number of stars in the night sky.
    • The Apostle Paul referred to Abraham’s faith in God’s promise in Romans Ch#4.  Paul repeated Gen 15:6 as I just read and then pointed out that all who believe in God’s promises are Abraham’s descendants. We read from a portion of Rom 4:13,16 - 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did *not* come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
    • Paul goes on a few chapters later to say – 6bFor *not* all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and *not* all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring[1].
      • What Paul is trying to communicate is all who believe in the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are children of Abraham!  That includes you and me.  Ever since you were baptized, you had the Holy Spirit working faith in your soul to believe in a promise from God like our text for today which I repeat - 5And now, if you will indeed hear My voice and guard my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession from all the nations, for all the earth is mine.
  • Promises: With that in mind, let us spend a few moments looking at national events, and compare them to the five places in the OT where the Greek word περιούσιος appears. Please keep in mind whenever you hear God saying “you” in these texts, that literally means you!
    • Ex 19:5 - 5And now, if you will indeed hear My voice and guard my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession from all the nations, for all the earth is mine.  This is our text for today and it is the first of the five occurrences of περιούσιος.
      • The context of when the Lord said this is in the third month of liberation from Egyptian slavery.  He reminded the Israelites what was done to the Egyptians.  He also reminded them on how He bore them on eagles wings to bring them to Himself.
      • The Lord asked His people to be faithful to guarding His covenant.  If I were to ask you what it would mean to you if I asked you to guard my car, what would that mean in real terms?  What actions would you take?  To guard something is to be actively engaged in observation of the well-being of what it is you are guarding.  You would watch out for stones flying into it.  You would interdict anyone walking up to it, especially with a look on their face like they were going to steal the car.  Maybe it would make sense to put the car in a garage so it is protected from the elements.
      • This guarding is what the Lord has in mind for you to do with His word.  The covenant referred to here is the Ten Commandments.  How well are we guarding the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods? A quick way to make the Lord jealous is for you to pay more attention to something else in your life than Him.  That will not end well.
        • These riots across the country are heart-rending. I personally cannot believe I am witnessing our country being literally torn to pieces from within.  I have lost all faith in political leadership in these cities where the rioters are allowed to take over government facilities and burn down other people’s property.
        • Does that mean however I should also lose faith in our Lord?  The meaning to the First Commandment is this: we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Will the Lord allow this destruction to go on forever?  Absolutely not!  The days of the wanton sinfulness of this Age are numbered.  And you who fear, love, and trust in God above all things are God’s treasured possession.  It may not seem like it right now, but He is guarding you, keep you in all of His ways, lest you kick your foot against a stone.
    • Ex 23:22 – But if you will indeed obey My voice and do all I command you and keep My covenant, you shall be My special people above all nations, for the whole earth is Mine; …and if you shall indeed obey My voice and do all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemies, and an adversary to your adversaries[2].  This sounds a lot like our first passage also from the book of Exodus.  God likes to repeat what He deems important for His people to know and understand.  What is different here though is the context.
      • God was giving His people the Law.  If the people followed laws governing stolen property, moral laws, provided justice for all, and followed religious observations in demonstration of their love for the Lord, then the people who follow these laws would act differently than all the other nations around them.
      • When you encounter a person in a store for instance, who is courteous, doesn’t drop F-bombs into every sentence they speak, and in general appears to be happy, you would say to yourself; that person is different.  Why are they different?  Is it because their conduct is more dignified, more orderly, maybe even a bit reverent?
      • This is how the Lord wants His people to be despite what the rest of the nations on earth are doing.  How does He achieve that?  He gives His Law to a particular group of people, not because those people were so great to begin with.  No, He chose His people out of His divine providence and mercy, that on this side of heaven, we are not going to understand.
      • We become His treasured possession when our conduct is aligned with His Law as found in the bible.  As our nation increasingly moves away from God’s Law, we become more like the other nations of the earth, and maybe even worse.  However, that does not excuse us from guarding the Lord’s word in our heart and soul. 
      • You might despair over what you see on the news lately, but keep this in mind from Ex 23:20 - 20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared[3].  You have none other than the Lord Jesus and His holy angels watching over you, because you are part of His most treasured possession.
    • Our third of five OT passages where the Lord tells us we are His treasured possession is in Deu 7:6 - “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth[4].  We have a theme going on here, don’t we?  We who are descendants of Abraham by faith were chosen by God to be His treasured possession.  The context of this statement was the Lord speaking to His people about what they needed to be doing once they were in the Promised Land.
      • What is insightful are the words the Lord spoke after once again reaffirming we are His treasured possession - It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt[5]
      • Are there times when you feel like you are in the minority in our society? Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. The former Apostolic Nuncio from the Vatican to the United States wrote a letter to our president on Trinity Sunday last week.  An “Apostolic Nuncio” is basically an ambassador from the Pope to a nation, but also has ecclesiastical authority in the Catholic Church of that nation. Carlo Maria Vigano wrote that it is only a minority of people in this country who are protesting and rioting. These rioters are held up in high esteem by a minority of people in the media and academia.  The majority of the people in this nation do not believe what is going on in our country is right and proper.
      • However, even if that is not the case, last week on Trinity Sunday, we explored the science of the immense power of our Lord God in the creation of the heavens and the earth.  I ask you, whose side do you want to be on in a war against good versus evil?  If Satan and his henchmen are in the majority, and I don’t believe that to be the case, remember that Satan was created by God.  I think what Bill Cosby said in a comedy routine about a parent talking to their kid applies, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out!”  Satan will be tossed into the lake of burning sulfur to be tormented for eternity.  He will get tossed with the mere flick of the Lord’s wrist.  No matter how bad the tribulation gets around us, I think it is wise to be on the side of the Lord, irrespective of how many fellow sinners are with us or against us.
    • Our next of five is a few chapters later in Deu 14:2 - For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth[6]
      • This was said in the context similar to the second Exodus passage in that the Lord is laying out for His people the do’s and don’ts which will set them apart from all the other heathen nations.  I don’t want to spend much more time on this one, because we already made the point that when you guard the words of the Lord with your thoughts, words, and actions, you are someone special to those around you, and especially to our Lord. When you keep the covenant of the Ten Commandments, you really are different in a positive way from the rest of the world.  Don’t be surprised if people make fun of you for acting like one of the King’s kids. Equally, don’t be discouraged that you don’t partake in the evil others are doing.  Your reward is in heaven.
    • And finally, our last of five locations in the OT where we find περιούσιος is in Deu 26:18.  However, I want to read a couple verses ahead of this so you get the context of what the Lord was saying - 16 “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul17 You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. 18 And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments[7]
      • Does a commitment to walk in God’s ways and keep His statutes and commandments scare you like it scares me?  I know what kind of sinner I am.  I realize the same thing within myself the Apostle Paul wrote about in Rom 7:18 - 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out[8]
      • The Lord knew this about all of us when He repeated this about loving Him with all our heart, and soul, and mind.  He knows we are corrupted ever since we were conceived.  This is why He sent His Holy Spirit to work in us to remind us of what is pleasing to the Lord, and then empowers us to do the good He requires.
      • You already are His treasured possession, with the mark of baptism on your soul. You are an adopted child of God because of your baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  I spewed out a lot of science last week to show just how immensely powerful our God is who made heaven and earth.
      • Each week throughout the summer, we will be confessing our faith in the words of the Apostle’s Creed.  Pay special attention when we get to the part in the Creed when we confess we believe Jesus…ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. What you are confessing with these words is you believe Jesus is in charge, just like He said in the Gospel reading from last week as quoted from Mat 28:18 - 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  
  • Conclusion: We spent our time today in meditation on the Lord’s usage of the Greek word, περιούσιος.  The Apostle Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, made clear we are descendants of Abraham by faith, and not necessarily by bloodline.  Because of that, these promises God made that His people are His treasured possession applies to you.  You are in the palm of His hand, and because of His strength and His limitless love for you, nothing can steal you away from the place in heaven you already possess. Keep this in mind the next time you hear something on the news or any bad news around you.  God has promised you are treasured and He can and will keep His promise.  Amen.

 


[1] Rom 9:6b-8 as copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+9&version=ESV – emphases mine

[2] A portion of Ex 22:23 from the Septuagint as translated into English by The Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN 2008 p.96

[3] Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+23&version=ESV

[4] Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+7&version=ESV

[5] Deu 7:7-8 also from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+7&version=ESV

[6] Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+14&version=ESV

[7] Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+26&version=ESV

[8] Copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+7&version=ESV

Every Day is Father's Day (Jer 20:11)

  • Introduction: We hear a lot about the deep state.  The “deep state” is a reference to people working in the bowels of the federal government to allegedly serve the deep state and no one else.  Politicians duly elected by people are sometimes told to not make waves or the state will come after them.  In the latter part of the J Edgar Hoover era of being FBI Director, there were rumors of his investigating political opponents and making it clear to not mess with his agency.  He was the first ever of the FBI Directors and served from 1924 to the day he died in 1972[1].
    • What I’d like to have you think about for a moment is working within the culture of a “deep state”.  Let’s say you are serious about following the Lord’s word and as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians - 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ[2].
      • You can be serious about doing all to the glory of the Lord, and you should be, whether working in the deep state (whatever that is) or where you serve the Lord in your present circumstances.  This is easy for us to confess here at church on a Sunday morning that yes, we will serve the Lord.  But, getting back to our deep state analogy, let’s say the deep state wants you to destroy an innocent person’s reputation – in direct opposition to the 8th Commandment: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor[3].  Or, how about overstating a health hazard so that people will demand greater regulation of commerce?  Is the Lord proud of you as one of His adopted children when you lie?
        • Remember, lying is when you knowingly give out false or deceptive information, or when you withhold key facts of the truth in order to deceive.  Satan is the father of lies and what is it we should have in common with Satan if we are one of the King’s kids?
    • Jeremiah, an OT prophet prophesying in the early 7th-late 6th centuries BC was part of the company of prophets who worked in Jerusalem.  The Lord sent him specifically to bring messages to the people of Jerusalem and Judah to repent from their evil ways and live.  Eventually, that put him at odds with the rest of the prophets and priests, because they were all delivering messages about peace the Lord neither gave them nor even contemplated.  Jeremiah had to stand alone against these false prophets in high places, or so it seemed.
      • We too are under increasing pressure to stand alone if necessary for the word of the Lord.  This is why our message for today is based upon Jer 20:11 which I repeat here from an original translation - 11 But the Lord was with me as a strong warrior; therefore they persecuted me, and knew not what they could do. They were greatly shamed, because they did not know their dishonor, which will eternally *not* be forgotten. 
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Your Spirit to be with us always.  We are Your children because of the faithful work of Your one and only Son, the Lord Jesus. Help us in our feeble estate to gladly hear Your word, and remember Your Son is with us as a strong warrior, especially when we think we must stand alone in following Your Son.  We pray this through Your ever present Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: Let’s spend a moment learning about the OT prophet, Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah began his ministry in 627BC, during the years of King Josiah of Judah.  Josiah dies a fool’s death in 609BC after attempting to take on Egypt which was on its way to fight against the Babylonians.  After Josiah, there were nothing but unrighteous kings for the remaining 23yrs of Judah’s existence.  Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC at the hands of the Babylonians because of the wickedness of the people.  The smoldering mass of what remained of Jerusalem after this devastation is what in part was the inspiration behind the biblical book of Lamentations, also written by Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah was prophesying to the people they should surrender to the Babylonians and live.  For this, he was abused even by religious leaders, facing beatings and near death at their hands.  They were saying God would not let Jerusalem be destroyed because the temple was there.  They were trusting in the building instead of He who inspired Solomon to build it.  We mentioned this in bible class just last week.
      • Jeremiah’s message was one of repent of evil ways.  His message from the Lord was also to surrender and live under Babylonian rule.  The Lord intended to take away self-rule from an insolent bunch of self-centered people who claimed with their lips to love the Lord, but their hearts were far from Him.
      • Jeremiah was hated for this message, but the Lord gave him the words to speak.  This was unlike the religious leaders who spoke things the Lord neither said nor contemplated.  One could observe Jeremiah was going against the deep state of the governing officials *and* the deep state of the temple, and it didn’t look well for Jeremiah’s health and well-being. ☹
  • Hermaneutic: This is where we pick up our message for today.  I want to spend the remaining moments of this message focused just on Jer 20:11 repeated here - 11 But the Lord was with me as a strong warrior; therefore they persecuted me, and knew not what they could do. They were greatly shamed, because they did not know their dishonor, which will eternally *not* be forgotten. 
    • We start with the phrase, “But the Lord was with me as a strong warrior.”  Jeremiah was taking abuse from the “in crowd”, and ultimately violence was leveled against him.  Jer Ch#20 begins with an example of violence committed against him by the son of the chief officer of the temple.  Jeremiah was beaten and then put into stocks overnight.  This doesn’t sound like Jesus or even the God the Father acting like a strong warrior in Jeremiah’s life.  In fact, I suspect there were no pinions covering Jeremiah throughout the night, nor keeping Jeremiah under the wings of the Lord as we read together from Psalm 91 a few moments ago.
      • The Lord made two key statements to Jeremiah specifically in his calling as a prophet of the Lord.  In Jer 1:8, God said - Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”  Additionally, the Lord said a bit later in reference to the opposition Jeremiah would endure - 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.[4]
      • The Lord’s word will accomplish its purpose.  Jeremiah was told he would prevail.  Jeremiah would have to trust in the Lord’s word, as he was then expected to fearlessly deliver the Lord’s word to a stubborn, obstinate people who answered to no one.  That meant in the situation with Jeremiah, there would be testing of his faith as he went about the business of proclaiming the Lord’s word.  You can see how tormented Jeremiah was with trusting in the Lord when Jeremiah wrote: O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
      • It’s easy to take pot-shots at Jeremiah and wonder aloud on whether he really trusted in the Lord.  But I ask you, how easy is it for you to confess your faith around your family? Your friends?  How easy is it in 2020 to express your free speech on any subject that the “in crowd” opposes?  Some people have been attacked for merely wearing a hat with a campaign slogan on it.
        • I believe that what Jeremiah went through and what we are suffering through right now in our nation is a testing on whether we will really believe Jesus in what He said in our Gospel reading for today - 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
      • I know of a person who once was working for a state agency.  He discovered a major flaw in the way outdoor air quality was being collected.  The data was being biased in some cases more than 10% high, because quality control procedures were wrong in how to operate the equipment collecting the data.  This person went public with the findings in a sharing of data with other surrounding states in an appropriate forum regarding overestimation of pollution levels.
        • At a statewide conference later that year, the person was held to account for making the findings public.  Arguments were made such as; so what if we overestimate air pollution?  So what if there is over-control of businesses?  It’s for the good of the people.
        • This person had seventeen people ganged up on him. And yet, he held his ground.  The person belied it was wrong to deceive the public into thinking air quality was worse than it really was.  Would the Lord be happy if someone did not speak up and do the right thing?
        • How do you think it was possible for the person to stand up against seventeen others who were expressing rage at this individual?  Would you agree that situation would be rather intimidating, whether the person’s job was threatened or not?  Coworkers can make life on the job very miserable, just like a boss who wants you gone.
        • One hint on how the person withstood this is something Jesus said on the night He was betrayed - 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you[5]. Jesus originally said this to His disciples, which all but two were martyred.  However, because He is in you and you are in Him, you are equally not left as an orphan in this sinful Age.  When you commune with our Lord Jesus as we do each week here at Christus Rex, you are receiving Christ’s body in the wafer and Christ’s blood in the wine.  There is no way Jesus can deny Himself, and since you are a part of Him, you are not left as an orphan.
    • This scenario leads to the next phrase of Jer 20:11 - therefore they persecuted me, and knew not what they could do.  Jeremiah witnessed how clueless his enemies were when he wrote this.  And yet, they knew they didn’t like the message Jeremiah was bringing.
      • No one likes to be told they are wrong. It hurts our pride.  It is in our nature to want to be right all the time and think that we are better than others.  The problem is we have nothing good dwelling within us.  We inherited from our first parents, Adam & Eve, the desire to sin. We want to be like God, knowing good and evil.  You can become an expert on knowing good & evil, but will you have the wisdom, desire, and ability to do good and reject evil?
      • There are some pretty smart people who get taken in by money scammers.  It has been said being book smart is not also being street smart.  What that means is there are people who know how to live and live well, staying out of the troubles of this Age for the most part, who do not have a lot of education. Being street smart in this context is referring to wisdom.  The Apostle Paul gave a peek into true wisdom when he wrote to the church at Corinth 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
      • We have “learned scholars” teaching in the universities there are more than two genders.  God’s word specifically states in Genesis He created male and female.  It doesn’t take a lot of book-learning to count to two when we read “male and female”.  And yet many “smart” people have exchanged the truth for a lie.  They are like people the prophet Isaiah wrote about by inspiration - 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight[6]!
        • People who disagree with the “in crowd” are excoriated and called names.  At this point, does it really matter what fools like these think about you?  They may harm you in some way, and the threats are real, but you have a God who is so immensely powerful, He created the heavens and the earth in only six, 24hr days.  These fools have no control over where you will spend eternity like the Lord has control.  You are His own and He will not forsake you in any way.  Every day is Fathers Day with your Heavenly Father looking out for you and keeping His angels in charge over you!
    • Our next phrase from Jer 20:11 is - They were greatly shamed, because they did not know their dishonor.  We read from Pro 13:5 - The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.  I admit, for one to feel shame, they must have a conscience.  They must be in touch with their human nature which knows right and wrong.  Our parents ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, and so this knowledge is passed on from generation to generation.  However, we already established this knowledge does not mean a smart person is wise and will use knowledge to the glory of the Lord.  People who do not know the Lord will come up with their own religion because we are all born with a desire to please and to worship.
      • To again quote from Isaiah - All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together[7].
    • Our last phrase from Jer 20:11 has chilling implications - which will eternally not be forgotten.  The people hassling Jeremiah were hassling someone whom the Lord Himself sent to those very people.  Jesus endured this same thing from the church leaders who should have known better when He was quoting the scriptures which testified of the Christ.  God is saying here through Jeremiah that those people who reject the message given to Jeremiah to pass along to God’s people are actually rejecting the God who sent Jeremiah.  The thugs may take it out on Jeremiah, but so long as Jeremiah is faithful to the Lord and not caving in to the secular pressure, God will forever remember the sins of these people.
      • This is chilling, because God has a perfect memory.  Because of the work which Jesus has done to cleanse us of our sin, when our names comes up before the Lord, God only sees Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death in our place.  You have no sin before God the Father!  There’s nothing for Him to forget.  Every day is Fathers Day, because His is your Father because of what Jesus did to make that happen.
      • Not so with those seeking justification for everything they did wrong in life. Anyone who seeks justification for their actions apart from Jesus will have all of their sins eternally remembered. Eternally!  Maybe you thought you had a long memory for people who’ve done you wrong, but that’s nothing compared to what the Father has for all who have done wrong apart from Jesus.  ‘Just a little reminder: Jesus endured a lot so that our sins would be wiped clean. He made the ultimate sacrifice so we would be reconciled with the Father.  His Father is now your Father.  Perhaps we all should follow Jesus’ example and forgive others as we have been forgiven.
    • Conclusion: It is not known how Jeremiah eventually died.  He was carted off to Egypt by the remnant of the people left in Jerusalem after it was destroyed.  I personally think he died of a natural cause and not by the hands of those who hated him. I believe this because of what the Lord said to Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry that I read earlier: 19 They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”  When the Lord says something, His word accomplishes the purposes to which it is sent.
      • You have been called to serve Him as well.  I hope with all that has been said the past 20 minutes or so, you have begun to realize if the Lord has commissioned something, or in your case, someone, His word to you will accomplish its purpose.  We just read earlier in this service from the Gospel, if the persecution is too great in one place, flee to another.  But at no time does the Lord let us off the hook from our responsibilities any more than He let Jeremiah off the hook from preaching to the people in Jerusalem.
    • It’s getting pretty nasty in our culture.  People’s entire careers are being ruined with a tweet or two on Twitter, or a posting on Facebook.  And yet, we will again confess in the Apostle’s Creed in a moment that Jesus is ruling from heaven this very moment.  He rules in your heart, and He will not abandon Himself.  You are a part of Him, so neither will you be abandoned. So then do as the Apostle Paul also wrote in Colossians - 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  And do this confidently, knowing the Almighty, Sovereign Lord is behind you.  I ask you; if God be for you, who or what can stand against you?  That is a Fathers Day question we can ask everyday for the rest of our lives in this Age. Amen.
       

[1] https://www.fbi.gov/history/directors/j-edgar-hoover

[2] Col 3:23-24 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=col+3&version=ESV

[3] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 2017 p.14

[4] Jer 1:8,19 as quoted from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+1&version=ESV

[5] John 14:18 as quoted in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=ESV

[6] Isa 5:20-21 

[7] Isa 44:9-11

Rivers of Living Waters (John 7:38)

  • Introduction:  
    • Peace within and without is hard to find and getting worse
      • Watch or listen to the news and you can lose heart real fast
    • The absence of confidence is fear and in our Gospel for today, Jesus invited anyone who thirsts, to come to Him and drink. What this thirsting means, and what this has to do with the celebration of Pentecost are topics for our consideration today.
  • Let Us Pray: As the hymnist wrote[1], we pray: Come, Holy Ghost, guide divine. Now cause the Word of life to shine. Teach us to know our God aright. And call Him Father with delight. From every error keep us free; let none but Christ our master be, that we in living faith abide, in Him our Lord, with all our might confide.  To You on this Day of Pentecost we bring these petitions O Holy Spirit, You who reigns with the Father and the Son, now and forever. Amen.
  • Background:  The setting for John Ch#7 is the Feast of Booths[2] or alternatively called the Feast of Tabernacles.  This was a post-harvest celebration reminding the Israelites their ancestors lived in booths when God brought them out of the land of Egypt.
    • To recall: the Israelites wandered 40yrs because of the faithlessness they displayed after 10 of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land came back and spread word on how big the people of Canaan were.  The Canaanites lived in fortified cities that were depicted as impenetrable.
      • The congregation of Israelites cried and grumbled.  They demanded a leader be chosen to lead them back into Egypt.  They were terrified of having to confront these giants.  They forgot about all the gifts they witnessed the Lord doing in their lives.
      • Imagine the chaos and fear you would have in your soul if the only news you had was bad news like the Israelites heard:
        • Insurmountable enemy
        • Riches of a land were beyond reach and therefore no hope of attaining
    • The Feast of Booths is like our annual Thanksgiving celebration.  Both occur in November of each year, and both are after a harvest. With this backdrop of what festival Jesus appeared in the temple of Jerusalem, we reread John 7:37-38 - 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
      • We can’t help but observe here the contrast between the chaotic reaction of the Israelites hearing bad news, and the Gospel message to all of us who thirst for the truth. Jesus is clearly telling all that if we thirst for salvation, Jesus will provide drink to satiate that thirst.
  • Interpretation:  Just what does it mean to thirst?   Is Jesus just referring to a drinking fountain that we go up to whenever we are thirsty?
    • The ancient Israelites had just witnessed the Ten Plagues leveled against Egypt, which ruined the nation’s food supply and killed off the first-born of people and animals.  They saw the most powerful army in the world get drown in the Red Sea immediately after they walked through that same sea on dry ground.  They were eating manna and quail provided daily by the Lord for them to survive on.
    • They heard a bad report from ten guys who got scared.  The ten did not provide a faith-filled report of how great the Promise Land was.  They didn’t trust in the Lord’s promise made to their ancestor Abraham 430yrs earlier to deliver them into the land of Canaan.
      • Think about this: the people grumbling against Moses, Aaron, and ultimately the Lord were probably finishing off a flock of quail that flew into camp to be supper for about 2,000,000 people! 
      • This grumbling was going on because of what?  Was it something ten people said, instead of looking at hard evidence through a lens of faith?
      • In a way, this sounds like our society even today, doesn’t it?  We watch a few commentators on television, or listen on radio, tell us riots in cities across this country are occurring because of a senseless death of a person at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis.  We are told the rioting is because of systematic racism instead of looking at the evidence of one jerk abusing the powers vested in him as a police officer.  Wanton violence, destruction, and anarchy is occurring in the very depressed neighborhoods where a lot of people are losing hope that things will get better in their lives.  People with no hope are perpetually depressed.  They have no peace.
      • We hear witness from a few about some states still under lock down, all in the name of protecting people from a virus that it turns out is not nearly the strength it was originally thought. This is like the Israelite camp locked down in fear because of a report about people who were made out to be stronger than they really were.
        • The truthful evidence those Israelites had was the Lord wiping out hundreds of thousands of Egyptians. And yet somehow, the Canaanites were stronger and better than the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth at the time.  They saw Egypt dissolve before their very eyes, but somehow the Promised Land was beyond their hope.  They did not have peace.
      • Before you point the finger at those ancient, faceless Israelites you think you have no connection with, how are you holding up right now from the reports you get from a handful of people in your life?  Are those people quenching your thirst or making it worse?
    • I think, what Jesus was referring to when He mentioned “thirst”, is thirst for truth.  Additionally, I think He had in mind people thirsting for a way out of the misery of this Age.  Lastly, I think Jesus wanted to offer eternal life to all who would believe that He is as He later said - “I am the way, and the truth, and the life[3]
  • Exegesis:  The Apostle John wrote the Gospel of his name in about 90AD.  When you read this Gospel, it is written in a narrative form.  It’s like John is telling a story and provided firsthand facts of things he witnessed during Jesus 3yr ministry. This is how we go from verses 37 & 38 of our text, which are quotes from Jesus, to verse 39 which is an interpretation of what Jesus meant.  John wrote in v39 - 39 Now this [Jesus] said about the [Holy] Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
    • To recall, Jesus said, “…If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  What John is telling us about Jesus’ words is that anyone who thirsts will be given the living water Jesus mentioned to the woman at the well in John Ch#4.  We read from John 4:13-14 - 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 
      • We see in several places of both the OT and NT where the Lord speaks of living water.  For instance, in Zec 14:8, we read - On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
        • What is interesting about this verse of the OT is that in the Greek Septuagint, instead of stating eastern and western seas, the seas are the first and the last.
      • When the Septuagint rendering of Zec 14:8 is used, this “first & last” rendering aligns much better with what Jesus told John in the Book of Revelation - And [Jesus] said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment[4].
    • There is an amazing consistency amongst the biblical books of Zechariah, John, and Revelation.  But, let me give you yet another cross-reference of this concept of living water.  We find this reference in Isa 55:1 - “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat![5]  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  In this quote from John Ch#7, Jesus is making clear He is the fulfillment of what was promised in Isa 55:1.  That section of Isaiah was written about 700yrs before Jesus was incarnate into human flesh.
  • Application:  The point I’m making is there is this living water that has both a physical and spiritual component to it.  Can you think of a place and time when water is used in the church for eternal life? Baptism!
    • What we see in Jesus’ words in our text for today in John Ch#7 and elsewhere throughout the bible is a reference to baptism.  Jesus’ earthly ministry started with His own baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  Jesus, who knew no sin, really didn’t need baptism as we do – for the forgiveness of sins, but He did it to fulfill all righteousness.
      • No one gets into heaven who is a sinner.  Jesus said in Rev 21:8 - But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
      • If you are struggling with these sins, you are right to be concerned about eternal life.  Sin kills – eternally!  This kind of concern is a “thirsting” for a way out of a life of evil that leads to eternal death.
      • Perhaps you can now see why Jesus’ words to sinners such as the woman at the well and the people at the temple at the end of the Feast of Booths was a sweet Gospel message.  Let me repeat them - “…If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Jesus is alluding to baptism which when a soul is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, they are receiving living water applied to them physically. Without this living water, a sinner is headed straight to hell, which is that lake of burning sulfur Jesus mentioned in Revelation.
  • Holy Spirit:  There’s just one thing missing from this interpretation of Jesus’ living water. What exactly does the Holy Spirit have to do with this?  Let’s repeat once again John’s narration about Jesus’ words - 39 Now this [Jesus] said about the [Holy] Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
    • What John is stating here is, when Jesus said that those who thirst can come to Him and drink without cost, Jesus was speaking about a time after His innocent death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.  Jesus would then ascend into heaven, because if He didn’t go back to heaven, the Holy Spirit would not be commissioned to work in the souls of NT-era believers.
    • Which brings us to the occasion of today, the Day of Pentecost.  Jews would gather in Jerusalem each year seven weeks after the Passover feast.  This was a time to bring a portion of a spring harvest before the Lord.  This is why it was not unusual for the Jews to once again all be gathered in Jerusalem from all over the world, as we read from our second reading for today.  The Feast of Weeks was the second of three feasts which were required of all believers to appear before the Lord[6].  The first is of course Passover, and the third is the Feast of Booths we’ve explored earlier in this message.
      • Us NT believers call the Feast of Weeks “Pentecost”, because this comes from the Greek “πεντηκοστή” which translates to “fifty” in English.
    • The Holy Spirit is the person of the Triune Godhead who enables us to remember the words of the Lord and to put our trust in them.  We would simply not be able to function spiritually without the work of the Holy Spirit taking place within us.
      • There is a Day of Pentecost each time there is a person baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They physically receive the living water Jesus mentioned in our text for today, and they spiritually receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit in our soul, guaranteeing we will make it into heaven.  From the time of your baptism until the day you enter into heaven, the Holy Spirit is in you to act as sort of a guardian making sure you believe, that there are fruits of faith that you perform, and you make it to the destination the Triune God has made possible for you to enter.
      • The only way this would not work out is if we deny the witness of the Holy Spirit made in our soul.  This is the only unpardonable sin.
  • Conclusion:  This is why Pentecost is such a big deal on the annual church calendar! We now have the Holy Spirit through our baptism making sure we are reminded of our cleansing through the work of Jesus in being that one perfect sacrifice that ended all sacrifices. Jesus fulfilled every bit of the Law that none of us throughout the history of mankind could do.
    • All of the junk you hear from a few witnesses on television or radio is coming to an end.  Don’t be led astray from the God who loves you.  He has promised all these gifts to those who believe in Him.  And, because we are so feeble in our sinful condition, God has provided a means for us to believe and trust in Him by sending the Holy Spirit to work in our soul true faith.
    • This wonderful story of a loving and gracious God going to great lengths to have you live with Him in perfect peace is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to non-Jews.  Someone dying on a cross for the sins of the whole world?  Really?  Would we even know or care about what is a sin, apart from the Holy Spirit? 
      • Do you think the rioters who are looting stores and burning down buildings across the country care about sin?  You could be one of them – apart from the Holy Spirit working in you, testifying to your soul about what is right and what is wrong.  Those with the Holy Spirit working in their soul have peace no matter what is going on. 
    • With this Gospel message may grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you always!  Amen


 


[1] “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord”, adapted for this prayer from Lutheran Service Book, St. Louis, MO, 2006, hymn 497v2

[2] Lev 23:39-42

[3] John 14:6a ESV

[4] Rev 21:6  ESV

[5] Isa 55:1a  ESV

[6] Deu Ch#16

God Almighty (Gen 1:1)

  • Introduction:  Last week was the festival of Pentecost.  To recall, Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit came and settled onto the 120 believers at that time, empowering spiritually dead people to come to life and believe the words of our Lord Jesus.  We explored a spiritual thirsting we all have that Jesus provides living water to quench that thirst.  We looked into how the Holy Spirit worked in us ever since our Baptism to counsel and guide us all the way into heaven.
    • But, someone of the Trinity was not mentioned much in our message last week - the Father. The Father sent His one and only Son to accomplish the work of salvation.  He then sent His Spirit out into the world so that spiritually dead mankind could spring to spiritual life through the work of the Holy Spirit.
    • Today is the festival of Trinity, a day when all three persons of the Triune Godhead are acknowledged.  We will acknowledge the almighty power they have exerted as the Triune God, and what that means for us in 2020.
    • After this message, I will have you turn to the back page of your bulletin to see a short outline on the history of Trinity Sunday and also a special Creed we will use to confess our faith before receiving the body and blood of our Lord Jesus under the wafer and wine in Communion with Him.  We will recite the Athanasian Creed, which I will admit is long, but very explicit in the understanding of the Triune God whom we worship all the time. It is the third of the three ecumenical Creeds we uphold in the Lutheran church, and I will talk more about the Athanasian Creed after this message.
  • Let Us Pray: Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.    Be with us this day that we may more appreciate the work of creation, redemption, and sanctification that You, Lord God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have done and continue to do in our lives.  Remind us there is nothing too powerful in this evil Age that can separate us from the love you have for us.  We bring these petitions to O Trine God, through the Second Person of the Trinity, our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
  • Creation: I can think of nothing more tangible and powerful each person of the Trinity collaborated to do as one, than creation of the heavens and the earth.  Our abbreviated reading of the Genesis account of the creation of the world is the basis for this exploration into the power and might, the breadth and depth of the God.
    • I’d like for us to take a moment and stretch the limits of our finite minds.  Imagine when there was no time.  Progress in your mind in what we know is recorded in the bible:
      • You were born somewhere between 1900-2000yrs after Jesus was born into the flesh, suffered and died in our place on a Roman cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven
      • The Israelites were liberated from Egypt by the Lord about 1500yrs prior to Jesus being born of a virgin to become God in man.
      • Moses led the Israelites out of slavery about 500yrs after Abraham, and 430yrs to the day from the time the promise was made to Abraham that his offspring would be liberated
      • Abraham came 942yrs after the Great Flood in which the entire earth was covered with water for months
      • Adam was created on the sixth day of creation, and there were 2,242yrs from his time until the Great Flood
    • Okay six, 24hr days – we get that – but here’s where the limits of our finite mind end. What was it like prior to the first day of creation?  Gen 1:3,5 - And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
      • The Father and the Spirit were present at the beginning of creation.  They had to be because Gen 1:1-2 identifies at a minimum the Father and the Spirit - In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
      • Lest you wonder about whether just the Father and Holy Spirit were present at the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Apostle John gets right to the point in the first three verses of the Gospel by his name - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made[1].  Later in John Ch#1, John makes it clear the “word” is Jesus - 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
      • To me, John, under the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit as Moses who wrote Genesis, made it clear Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the heavens and the earth.
  • Scientific Evidence: I’m going to divert from the Gen Ch#1 text for a little bit to address the well-meaning intent of some to relate theories of evolution with the creation account in Genesis.  My diversion will be to briefly explore the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, and how it is impossible for the heavens and earth to have evolved.
    • Thermodynamics is built around two laws.  They are sometimes jokingly referred to as (first law), “You can’t get something for nothing,” and (second law), “You can’t break even.”  In actuality, the first law is that of conservation of energy.  It says that energy used within a system is neither created nor destroyed but only transferred[2]
      • “You can’t get something for nothing” is a quote from a website I visited to research the Laws of Thermodynamics and be able to speak about them in layman’s terms.  I just had you stretch your finite mind to its limits, to think of a time when there was no time; there was no earth.  There was nothing!  There weren’t the 94 varieties of naturally occurring atoms you see on the Periodic Table of Elements in a chemistry class.
        • The Periodic Chart has more than 94 atoms, but the heavier atoms above 94 do not occur naturally and therefore were created. It took energy to create them, probably through nuclear fission or some other means.  From where did any of those elements come from if at one time there was nothing?  A created atom is an unstable atom, with a half life of a very short period of time.
        • In order to have a big bang to create the universe, there would have to be energy converted into matter and then the matter could spread out.  Some matter could start a nuclear fusion reaction like we have in our sun that heats and lights the earth.
        • But wait a moment: according to our historical account of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day.  Gen 1:14-19 makes it clear this “big bang” wasn’t even possible until the fourth day of creation.  We read a portion of that passage as a reminder - 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, … 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. … 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
        • From where did all of the matter of the universe come in order for the alleged big bang to create it?  Our First Law of Thermodynamics states energy can neither be created nor destroyed; only converted to matter and back.
        • My thought is there is a great and awesome God who created the heavens and the earth – from nothing!  Yes, nothing!  The mere fact that God the Father said, “Let there be…(fill in the blank)” was something Jesus, who is the Word of God, went out and created what the Father said there should be.  For example, if the Father said, “Let there be light”, then Jesus made or became the light.
          • To prove this, Jesus is quote by the Apostle John as saying - 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.[3]
    • I mentioned a moment ago there are two Laws of Thermodynamics.  Another website sourced for this message stated the following - The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; the total quantity of energy in the universe stays the same. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about the quality of energy. It states that, as energy is transferred or transformed, more and more of it is wasted. The Second Law also states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state[4].  Another word for disordered is chaotic.  This means everything of the universe is de-volving not e-volving.
      • Did you catch that about the quantity of energy in the universe is finite?  Evolution could not have happened because the universe has no new energy added to it.  For something to evolve into something bigger, better, and more sophisticated, it must have outside energy or matter added to it. 
      • The Second Law as stated wasn’t clear about something you know from experience.  For example, when you pour a hot cup of coffee and let it sit, what happens to the temperature of the coffee after it sits for a while?  It gets colder.  How cold? Down to near absolute zero of outer space[5]?  No, it eventually assumes room temperature.  There is no energy added to the coffee to keep it at temperature. 
      • The universe is the same way.  Honest scientists will tell you the universe will eventually die a heat death when everything hot becomes cold (absolute zero[6]).  The heavens and the earth testify of God’s presence, because the earth over the course of its 7200yr existence did not get colder to the point of assuming the temperature of space – absolute zero, which is -460°F.
  • God is God: Understand if you cannot get out of Gen Ch#1 believing what you read in the bible, a virgin birth some 5,000yrs after creation isn’t going to make sense.  A life after death as described throughout the bible isn’t something you will grasp.  Either God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created the heavens and the earth in six, 24hr days, or He didn’t.  Without God the Holy Spirit, you won’t believe it.
    • You see evidence all over the place, in our schools, and even in churches where there is a lack of faith in all of God’s word.  You cannot pick & choose which portions you want to accept and toss the rest.  God is truth. Jesus said as recorded in John 14:6-7a - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.
      • You will believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, by the work of the Holy Spirit to work faith in your soul.  You will believe Jesus and the Father are one, again from the same source – the Holy Spirit.  This is why the festival of Pentecost we celebrated last week was such a big deal.
    • If your God is this immensely powerful and present in the universe to this moment, what is it that can prevail against Him?  Pandemic?  Riots? Loss of freedoms we have enjoyed in this country such as come to church?
      • The beast of Rev Ch#17 gets one hour to rule – only because God agreed to it. Listen to this portion of Rev Ch#17 - 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.[7]
      • The stuff you see on TV is coming to an end one way or another.  Jesus is the Lamb mentioned in Rev Ch#17, and He is God. So is His Father, and so is the Holy Spirit who empowers you to believe this good news.  We know how this whole life turns out.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but you won’t.  Your experience in heaven is for eternity. The time you spend on earth in this sin-filled Age is like an hour in comparison to the time you will live in heaven.
  • Conclusion:  Your salvation is safe because you are an adopted child of God from baptism onward. Your safety in this Age is also assured. The Psalmist wrote - Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday[8].
    • The Holy Spirit lives in you to counsel you from the time of your baptism until you are in heaven.  If you are struggling with believing this or anything we discussed on today, do like the father of a son who was demon-oppressed had done.  This father asked Jesus – 22b…if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”[9]
    • If Jesus is part of the Triune Godhead who created the heavens and the earth, and if this same Jesus drove a demon out of some kid who was terrorized and thereby terrorized his parents and others, this same Jesus can keep you from harm and danger in this Age and certainly the next.
      • Remember, Jesus is one with the Father and the Spirit, all of who created the heavens and the earth.  Who, or what could be more powerful than the Triune God?
      • Call upon Jesus. He can deliver you from anything troubling you.  He has the authority to do so, and has promised to act.  Amen.


 


[1] John 1:1-3 per https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1&version=ESV

[2] https://www.power-eng.com/2020/02/04/a-tale-of-two-laws-basics-of-steam-generation-thermodynamics/#gref

[3] John 8:12 as copied from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8&version=ESV

[4] https://www.livescience.com/50941-second-law-thermodynamics.html#:~:text=The%20Second%20Law%20of%20Thermodynamics%20says%20that%20processes%20that%20involve,of%20heat%20energy%20are%20irreversible.&text=The%20Second%20Law%20also%20states,into%20a%20more%20disordered%20state.

[5] roughly 2.7 Kelvin (-270.45 Celsius, -454.81 Fahrenheit) per https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/175932-the-international-space-station-will-soon-become-the-coldest-place-in-the-known-universe-for-science

[6] It’s minus 273.15 degrees on the Celsius scale, or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. Per https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/what-absolute-zero-ncna936581

[7] Rev 17:12-14 per https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+17&version=ESV

[8] Ps 37:5-6 per https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+37&version=ESV

[9] Mark 9:22-24 per https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+9&version=ESV

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