2021:Sundays in Advent

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Recognize the Kingdom is Near (Luke 21:31)

  • Introduction: Advent is the start of a new year in the church.  We are now in Series C of the 3yr lectionary series, if you are keeping track of such things.  The start of Series C this weekend included two different Gospel readings from Luke. When faced with two good options for an either/or scenario, I sometimes respond with “yes” instead of making a choice of one over the other. 😊  This is why we had an unusual set of readings to start off with Advent on today.
    • The reason for this is thetwo Gospel readings instruct us of Jesus first and final coming to our Age.  As has been observed in the past, we worship a God who comes to us.  All other religions of the world are set up to worship a god who must be approached and appeased of his anger.  These gods (emphasis on small “g”) are prayed to, but they have eyes which do not see and ears which do not hear.  Therefore, those prayers wind up in a virtual wastebin.
      • Not so with the God to whom Christians of every tribe, language, and time in history worship.  Jesus came to us in the same flesh & blood you & I have.  He lived with the same temptations you & I do, but He never sinned.  The first reading for today covered Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – on the way to His cross where our sins were nailed.
      • Despite this triumphant entry occurring at the end of His ministry tour, it was a scenario of foretelling how He will return to us a second and final time. As mentioned on last week, Jesus will come again triumphantly in the clouds to end the Age of existence as we currently know it.
    • In this season of Advent, our focus is to make ready for both occasions.  In your home you probably will put up a tree and decorate the house for Christmas. However, are we prepared for Jesus to come at the end of this year?  This month? Maybe even this afternoon?  It is His second and final return for which we will explore how to prepare.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, each season of Advent reminds our short-sighted minds of the great love You showed for us.  You sent Your one and only Son to us to be like us except for sin, so that He could take our sins from us.  Please send the Holy Spirit so that in gratitude for saving us from our sins, we recognize different things we can do to prepare our heart for Jesus’ triumphant return.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: As was just mentioned, there were two (2) readings from the Gospel according to Luke.  Let’s spend a moment taking a deeper dive into each.
    • Our First Reading recalled Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40).  We celebrate this event each Palm Sunday in the church year.  It always seems kind of odd to do so, since that is the end of the Lenten season. Lent is a season of reflection upon our sins and repentance from those sins.  We go through Lent in sorrow that our sins drove Jesus to the cross, only to cheer wildly on Palm Sunday when the King of kings entered into Jerusalem.  If we didn’t cheer wildly, the stones along the path would do so!  We then again go through the sorrow of witnessing our Lord Jesus die a horrible death on the cross just five (5) days later.  Ah, but on the third day of that death on the cross, He is raised from the dead! 
    • Aside from the emotional roller-coaster I just mentioned, what would the events of Palm Sunday have to do with Advent?  The answer is, a lot!  Our second Reading was a series of admonitions from Jesus to be aware of when He returns again triumphantly.  It will be just like He did on that Sunday in March about 2000yrs ago, only on a much, much larger scale.  He will return under some very sorrowful circumstances, similarly to the comparison between the emotions of Lent and Palm Sunday.  Jesus described in Luke 21:10-24 how bad things will be at the time He returns.  How does one prepare for His second and final return?
      • There are four (4) admonitions Luke recorded from Jesus that provide instruction for what we need to be doing in preparing our heart to meet Jesus.  You may want to pull out your bulletin and turn to the fourth page where the 2nd Gospel reading is printed for you, so you can highlight them for future reference.  The first of the four (4) admonitions to prepare is get up & lift your head up toward Jesus, because redemption is near (Luke 27:27-28). Jesus said this after explaining some signs of His return in Luke 21:25-26.  Despite it becoming more oppressive to follow the Lord Jesus in 2021, we should not slump down and bury our head in the sand.  We need to straighten up from head to toe, because we are on the winning side.  There is no reason to slump down any more than when your favorite team wins it all. You want to celebrate with the winners and not cry with the losers.
      • The second admonition is found in a parable Jesus told about a fig tree that sprouts leaves in the spring time.  Jesus admonished us to behold the fig tree and know what the sign means (Luke 21:29-31).  When leaves sprout, it’s clear that summer is near.  This is akin to when we see all of the signs of the tribulation, we know the end of the Age is near.
      • Our third admonition is to not be weighed down with the stresses of this Age, and particularly the ways to cope with those stresses (Luke 21:34-35).  More & more people are dying of overdoses of all types of opioids sourced by prescription or off the street.  From 1999 to 2019, which was the last year for which statistics were available, the total number of deaths in this country rose five (5) times[1].  Almost 50,000 people lost their life in 2019 to something preventable because they had no hope. They were in a slump they thought they couldn’t get out of.  Jesus said, 34 “But be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that this day will not come on you suddenly, like a trap…[2]”  There were fewer ways at the time of Jesus to drown away despair which we still have in 2021, but science has provided opioids since then.  Jesus admonished us to not seek relief from stress like governments across the country suggested during the lock-downs due to Covid19. Remember April 2020 when the liquor stores were allowed to stay open, but the churches were shut down?
      •  The last admonition is to stay awake, paying attention to the times without getting stressed out about them. Additionally, we should be praying to be able to flee the coming wrath, and to stand before Jesus (Luke 21:36).  Jesus wants us to be aware of the signs of His second and final return.  He wants us to pray about being able to flee from the distress of the end times, because that means we are correctly interpreting the signs and trusting in Him to make it easier on us to persevere through them.  He wants us to be able to stand before Him on Judgement Day without sweaty palms and heart racing because we don’t know how it will turn out.  He wants us to have total confidence in Him that He covered us with His righteousness.
    • We can gage this love of His to want to cover us in His righteousness, because squished in the middle of these four admonitions is a promise.
      • Jesus said in v33 - 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away[3].  Everything we see and experience in this Age will come to an end.  The very earth and sky will disintegrate into nothing, just as they were created from out of nothing.  Jesus was part of their creation and He will bring about their destruction.  The good news is Jesus’ words will not pass away.  Jesus’ words are true, and will always be true throughout eternity.
  • Analysis: The season of Advent is a time to get ready for Christmas.  Each of the 3-4 Sundays in Advent, depending upon the year, provide insight on why we celebrate Christmas each year.  However, Advent also reminds us to be ready for the End of the Age.  Let me provide some practical analogies of these theological concepts.
    • For example, expectant mothers will do something called “nesting” when the time is near for the child to be delivered.  They’ll run around the house cleaning things up so the house is ready for the new arrival.
      • Advent is a time to decorate our “nest” for Christmas.  I’m sure most of us bring the Christmas decorations out for the Christmas season, and leave them out probably by tradition until Epiphany.
        • And why not?  Christmas is the celebration of the Son of God coming to us in our flesh.  Martin Luther wrote the words to the hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”.  Contemplate as I read to you stanzas 2 & 3 from Lutheran Service Book[4], the hymnal of our church:
          • 2To you this night is born a child Of Mary chosen virgin mild This little child of lowly birth Shall be the joy of all the earth
          • 3This is the Christ, our God Most High, Who hears your sad and bitter cry; He will Himself your Savior be From all your sins to set you free.
        • We do not have a god who is distant from us. He is not someone who when he has the time or desire, he’ll get back to us.  We have a God who loves us to the point of sacrificing Himself so we can get a free ticket to live in His mansions forever.
    • Another analogy of preparing during the season of Advent is a host who prepares their home for the arrival of guests. 
      • Karla & I just did this for Thanksgiving.  We had friends and family over for the meal and visit afterward.  We looked at the calendar and work backwards on what needed to be done by when for a successful gathering.
        • Eschatology is the study of what the End Times look like.  The Greek root for the word eschatology is εσχατος which means last.  Only God the Father has a date in mind for when the last day will be.  Since we don’t know that date, we need to be prepared in anticipation of the day possibly being today.  In order to prepare for a date, it’s always good to work backwards to plan out what we need to be doing to prepare for it.
        • God’s word in Luke 21 references four (4) distinct things to do in order to be prepared for whenever the Father says to Jesus, “okay, it’s time to harvest the earth to bring in the fruit of Your labors, My Son.”
  • Implications: I encourage you this Advent season to prepare your soul for both events of Luke 19 and Luke 21 in order to recognize them.
    • The first coming of Jesus was His birth in some filthy stable in ancient Bethlehem.  This was no ordinary baby boy.  Yes, it was a baby boy, but it was also Almighty God, so He could become like us.  The Apostle John wrote -  1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God[5].  John wrote that to clearly establish Jesus as the Word who is one with God the Father.  That set up for this next quote from John 1:14 - 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth[6]
      • Thank God (literally!) for this newborn coming to us.  This baby boy grew up while never sinning.  This boy became a man and at age 30 started His ministry – while never sinning.  He marched in Jerusalem to the cross starting on Palm Sunday, while not sinning.  He was nailed to the cross, bleeding out the sinless blood He swapped in exchange for the sins of the world.  There was no other way for us to free ourselves from the sin we caused.
        • The Apostle Paul wrote about the implications of this baby boy regarding where we would spend eternity.  Paul wrote - Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life[7].  Paul went on to say if we were united with Jesus in His death, we are also united with Him in His resurrection from the dead.  Since He rose never to die again, we too will rise, never to die again. (Rom 6:1-11) 
      • This virgin birth of God in man therefore is a big deal!  In the Gospel account by the Apostle Matthew, he noted that Joseph who was engaged to the virgin Mary was going to call it off when he found out she was pregnant.  However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said – 20b“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.[8]”  Matthew made it a point to be clear Joseph was Jesus’ stepfather, because the Holy Spirit was the means by which Mary became pregnant.  Matthew then pointed to Isa 7:14 and referenced Mary as the virgin foretold who would call her child Immanuel, meaning God with us (Mat 1:18-25).
    • Jesus, our Almighty God, has warned us in Luke 21:33 that everything we see is coming to an end.  He said - 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away[9]
      • Before you start lamenting the fact that your favorite whatever will disintegrate, it is actually a good thing that everything will pass away.  There is nothing in this Age that can compare with what Jesus has in store for us when we get into heaven. Take this for example from Rev 21:4 - and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.[10]”  Many of you know I love my Mustang GT convertible.  I love driving it with the top down.  There’s nothing like it.  But I will happily trade it for never having to mourn, cry, or experience any emotional or physical pain once heaven and earth pass away.  I can’t imagine what it will be like for the Lord Jesus Himself to wipe away all of my tears, but I’d like to find out.  It’s worth preparing for this event to happen one day in my eternal life.  I hope you feel the same way. 
      • Additionally, once in heaven, our relationship with the Triune God will be restored to what it was intended to be.   The Apostle John heard a loud voice from the throne in heaven he then recorded in Rev 21:3 - “…Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them…[11]”  Isn’t that aspect of your eternal life something to get prepared for? Amen!

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates#:~:text=Any%20opioid%20includes%20prescription%20opioids%20%28and%20methadone%29%2C%20heroin,and%20remained%20steady%20in%202018%20with%2046%2C802%20deaths, Figure 3

[2] Luke 21:34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021&version=NASB

[3] Luke 21:33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021&version=NASB

[4] Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO, 2006, Hymn 358

[5] John 1:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NASB

[6] John 1:14, ibid.

[7] Rom 6:3-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+6&version=NASB

[8] Mat 1:20b-21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+1&version=NASB

[9] Luke 21:33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+21&version=NASB

[10] Rev 21:4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Rev+21&version=NASB

[11] Rev 21:3, ibid

In the Midst of Trouble (Mic 5:2)

  • Introduction: The inspiration for the message for today is from Mic 5:2 from an original translation of the Septuagint Micah 5:1 - 1And you, Bethlehem, House of Ephrathah, you are little to be in thousands of Judah.  From out of you, He will loosened away from Me to be a ruler into Israel. And, His exits [from Me] are from a beginning, from out of days of eternity.[1] (CSRV)  This verse from the Bible was the inspiration for our opening hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.  The verse was a foretelling of the Messiah who would be loosen away from God the Father to come to our sinful Age.  There is so much Christology to come from this one verse(!), but we will cover this some other day.  What is interesting about Mic 5:2 is the similar prophecy of a Messiah to come and rescue God’s people found in Isaiah.
    • These prophecies were made in the midst of trouble faced by kings of Judah.  The fulfillment of those prophecies came in the form of a baby born from the earthly heritage of Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, also in troubled times.
    • God may seem slow with acting on what He sees.  This is because He wants to give people a chance to repent before taking action.  But that does not mean He won’t take action to discipline the evil-doers – and also to rescue the remnant of His people who do repent.
    • We need to keep this pattern in mind of Good News promises from God in the midst of trouble as we look forward to Jesus’ second and final return.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, You warned us in last week’s message that there would be tough times for all who love You.  Throughout Your word, especially in the Old Testament (OT), You repeatedly warned of coming death and destruction to those who would not repent from their evil ways. And yet, by Your grace, You also provided the Good News to Your people about rescuing them from the consequences of their sin.  Please send the Holy Spirit to grant us in faith eyes to see, ears to hear, and a circumcised heart to desire to turn from our sinful ways.  We entrust this petition to You, Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and throughout eternity.  Amen.
  • Background: Throughout the season of Advent, there are usually readings from Isaiah.  Today, we also had a reading from the OT Minor Prophet, Micah.  It’s worth spending a moment to learn more about these and other prophets who were contemporaries in the latter days of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  It’s also fruitful to look into the circumstances under which they prophesied God’s word, and yet in the midst of gloom & doom, the Lord provided the sweet Gospel messages of eternal redemption from this sinful, evil Age.
    • We’ll take the Gospel first. 😊 Let’s look at one prophesy of a redeemer during periods of siege threats.
      • Our OT reading for today was from Mic 5:2-5a. This was probably written sometime around the invasion of Syria by Tiglath-Pileser III starting in 734BC.  Damascus fell in 732BC to the Assyrians who also took most of the territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  In simple terms, the Assyrians were knocking on the door of Samaria, which was the capitol of Israel at the time.  God had sent a warning to turn from their sinful ways.  That warning was in the form of military conquests and the resulting oppression of many Israelites who were overtaken.  The remaining portion of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722BC.  That left Judah very vulnerable to an eventual Assyrian invasion under a successor to Tiglath-Pileser, King Sennacherib.  In the midst of all of this trouble of war and rumor of war is the sweet Gospel message - 2And you, Bethlehem, House of Ephrathah, you are little to be in thousands of Judah, from out of you, He will loosened away from Me to be a ruler into Israel. And, His exits are from a beginning, from out of days of eternity.” (CSRV)
      • The prophet Isaiah began prophesying in 740BC, which was when the Southern Kingdom ruler, King Uzziah, had died (Isa 6:1).  There was a period of time between Isaiah chapters six (6) & seven (7) when Uzziah’s son, Jotham ruled, and after him Jotham’s son, Ahaz.  Chapter seven (7) begins this way - 1Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it[2].  Just imagine if you lived in a city where armies from two neighboring states came to wipe the city out including all who are in that city.  You would think everyone would get religion after witnessing decline and decay of their civilization along with seeing the land of relatives get overrun by ruthless armies. In the midst of this trouble was the inspired word of God given through Isaiah - 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel[3].  We will read this again in the Christmas Eve service this Friday, because some 700yrs after this prophecy, the Almighty Son of God loosened away from heaven to come personally to rescue us from eternal destruction.
    • These prophecies seemed out of context with the observations of the evil of God’s people. 
      • What’s moreso is God didn’t send only Micah and Isaiah to Israel and Judah.  Other contemporaries of Isaiah and Micah included Hosea and Amos.  Things were so bad in the worship life of the people of Israel and Judah that God initially called Amos from being a shepherd and arborist during the latter part of Uzziah’s reign.  Within a year or so, God called Hosea to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom.  Hosea was the only prophet to have come from the Northern Kingdom.  All others were from the Southern Kingdom – it was that difficult to find someone in the Northern Kingdom to faithfully know and speak the Lord’s word.
      • The Israelites of the north were practicing all kinds of evil.  For example from Hosea 4:1-2 - 1Listen to the word of the Lord, you sons of Israel, Because the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, For there is no faithfulness, nor loyalty, Nor knowledge of God in the land. There is oath-taking, denial, murder, stealing, and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed[4].
        • To provide some 21st century context with 8th century BC Israel, Tucson just to the north of us already set a record for the most homicides in a single year – as of December 6th[5].  In an article I read on-line preparing for this message, a 21yr old woman was killed in a road rage incident.  Someone on a motorcycle shot her for who knows why[6].  She was a performer with a group called Kids Unlimited.  There was no indication in her life as to why someone would want to shoot her[7].  Unfortunately, it’s not just in Tucson violence leads to bloodshed following bloodshed.
      • The prophet Micah provided some additional insight on how bad things were when the Lord sent four prophets to call people to repentance.  In a bit of sarcasm, the Lord said to Micah - 11 If someone walking after wind and falsehood Had lied and said, ‘I will prophesy to you about wine and liquor,’ He would become a prophet to this people[8].  In other words, there were no qualifications for prophets to have first learned the word of the Lord which provides faith; just sound convincingly.  Additionally, we learn the word of the Lord to gain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  We already learned good and evil from when our first parents ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, but that needs to be reinforced lest we forget.  And yet, the true church at the time of these four prophets was laden with false prophets instead of discipling people to repent and follow the Lord’s precepts.
      • Even to today, if not properly discipled, people will pay lip service to the Lord and then going off fulfilling their passions. The Lord complained about the church-goers of the 8th century BC to Isaiah - 13Then the Lord said, “…this people approaches Me with their words And honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught;[9]”  
      • Apparently, people were coming to worship and honoring God, but when it came time to actually do what was said by the Lord, they wanted nothing to do with it.  They in turn created demand for more “feel good” prophecies where a preacher would merely say great uplifting things. In the last of the letters written by inspiration from the Apostle Paul, he exhorted Timothy to stick to God’s truth when preaching, correcting, rebuking, and exhorting people to follow the Lord - For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths[10].
      • Paul wrote that to Timothy sometime in the middle 60’s AD, because in part of the experiences of the prophets of the OT.  Everyone hearing from the false prophets and teachers back then wouldn’t learn a thing as far as the will of the Lord was concerned.  Unfortunately, Paul’s exhortation to a young pastor named Timothy is ignored in many churches today.  Who wants to hear about what a sinner they are?  Who wants to be told about being wiped out in a violent overthrow if they don’t change their sinful ways – even if it is the truth?  Why people might not come to church anymore if they’re told the truth that sin and rebellion against God kills – literally and eternally. 
        • Christus Rex will continue to preach Christ crucified, because ultimately that is the feel-good message.  It is a feel-good message, because we will continually learn about a God who loves us so much, He sent His only Son to rescue penitent sinners from the midst of trouble our sin has caused.  It might not sound so good now, but when you first set foot into heaven, it’ll really feel good!
  • Analysis: The Lord Jesus came to rescue us in the midst of trouble.  The Apostle Matthew wrote - 16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.[11]” (quote of Jer 31:15)  Herod the Great didn’t want to hear about a king other than himself.  He was thinking like so many Christians even today about Jesus being a mere earthly king.  He like many was not in touch with his own sinfulness and therefore the need to be saved from the consequences of that sinfulness.
  • Conclusion: Jesus came in the midst of trouble, and He will come again in the midst of wars and natural disasters.  He said as much in Luke 21:10-12 - 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be massive earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrible sights and great signs from heaven.  12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, turning you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors on account of My name[12].  It was mentioned toward the end of the message on last week that life might actually suck sometimes for a child of God. A child of God follows what the Good Shepherd has said.  A child of God who goes after the feel-good messages of false prophets will *always* - not sometimes – have a life that sucks.  They will never have peace.  Please don’t fall for any of the feel-good garbage that passes for religion in the 21st century.  It will not end well.
    • We therefore need to prepare for His return.  Recall from the first Sunday in Advent when Jesus provided four (4) admonitions on how to prepare our heart for his return[13].  Let me repeat the third and fourth admonitions from Luke 21:34-36 - 34 “But be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that this day will not come on you suddenly, like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who live on the face of all the earth. 36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you will have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.[14]”  It’s really tough to be prepared if we’re not getting the real word of God in the midst of the troubles of this Age.  Please don’t go after a theology of glory where everything is grand and all go to heaven. That is a deception that will lead people straight to hell.
    • And finally, to remain prepared for Jesus return, we can learn from what was said to Joshua of the OT.  He was commanded to bring God’s people into the promised land.  There were six occasions when the Lord told Joshua to be strong and courageous (Deu 31:6,7,23; Jos 1:6,7,9).  The Greek word rendered as courageous literally means to stand like a man [Greek:ἀνδρίζομαι (ăn-dríd-zŏ-mai)].  I have that word in the outline.  We too should stand up like a man in the midst of trouble through the power of our Lord.  The Apostle Paul is the only NT writer to use the Greek word, ἀνδρίζομαι, in this passage from    1Co 16:13-14 - 13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 *All* that you do must be done in love[15].  There is no reason for a child of God to be wimpy.  The Lord Jesus came in the midst of trouble so that we will never, ever be in the midst of trouble once we are ushered into heaven.  That is truly Good News, written throughout the scriptures as a reminder of how big a deal it is that God came to us in the flesh to rescue us from this evil Age.  Amen. 


[1] Mic 5:2 (English Translation) from LXX 5:1 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mic/5/1/t_conc_898002

[2] Isa 7:1 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/7/1/s_686001

[3] Isa 7:14 from NASB20, ibid

[4] Hos 4:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hos+4&version=NASB

[5] https://tucson.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/2021-breaks-record-for-most-homicides-in-a-single-year-in-tucson/article_517b475e-337b-11ec-addd-5fec4fb8edbf.html

[6] https://www.kgun9.com/news/local-news/police-21-year-old-woman-shot-killed-by-motorcyclist-in-road-rage-clash

[7] https://www.kustars.com/savannah-narcaroti.html

[8] Mic 2:11 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mic/2/1/s_895001

[9] Isa 29:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/29/1/s_708001

[10] 2Ti 4:3-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2Tim+4&version=NASB

[11] Mat 2:16-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+2&version=NASB

[12] Luke 21:10-12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+21&version=NASB

[13] “Recognize the Kingdom is Near (Luke 22:31) at https://www.christusrexlutheran.org/posts/sermons/recognize-the-kingdom-is-near-luke-22-31

[14] Luke 21:34-36 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+21&version=NASB

[15] 1Co 16:13-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+16&version=NASB

The Despair of Waiting (Luke 7:20)

  • Introduction: In our Gospel reading for today, John the Baptist provided an example of something we all feel at times – despair.  Admittedly, this is a slight reading into the text, but I don’t see what else would motivate John to send some of his followers to ask Jesus straight up whether Jesus was the Coming One prophesied about throughout the Old Testament.
    • It appears the source of despair was John’s expectation a Messiah would come and restore the earthly kingdom.  There are many places throughout the OT where the Lord prophesies a restoration of the Kingdom, but one example is in Zec 14:9 – 9And the LORD will be King over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one[1].  Many people at the time of Jesus fell victim to a misinterpretation of these prophesies, because they were looking for an earthly kingdom, whereas God meant a heavenly kingdom apart from sin and corruption that will last forever.
    • Expectations unfulfilled are what lead to despair.  John displayed despair despite some time earlier confessing Jesus as the Son of God.  The Apostle John recorded John the Baptist having said - “And I myself have seen, and have testified that this *is* the Son of God.[2]
      • The point being made here is not to criticize John for displaying a weak faith moment.  We too experience times of weak faith and a lack of trust in God’s holy word.  However, when we feel a similar despair to what John displayed, we need to have confidence Jesus already has restored the Kingdom, and hope it is only a matter of time when we will experience the full benefit of it.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, like John the Baptist, we too display despair.  We read Your word and want all prophesies to come to pass on our time. However, to You a thousand years is as one day.  We interpret as slowness Your patience with calling people to faith so that none perish (2Pe 3:8-9).  Please send the Holy Spirit to grant us faith and trust in You in a greater measure, and not despair over what we see and experience that is contrary to Your will. We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: Recall from a portion of last week’s Gospel reading from Luke 3:4-6, John the Baptist was sent to clear the path for Jesus to start His earthly ministry.
    • That preparation for Jesus’ ministry was founded on John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3).  People who responded favorably, by heeding the Holy Spirit’s call by the Gospel, would make fruit worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8).
    • Just a little further down the page in Luke ch#3 below last week’s reading, there was an indication not everyone took kindly to John’s call to repentance. ☹ We read from Luke 3:19-20 - 19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by [John the Baptist] regarding Herodias, his brother’s wife, and regarding all the evil things which Herod had done, 20 Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison[3].
    • To be clear, John was tossed into prison for calling Herod to repent from his sins (Luke 3:19), and by doing so, make fruit worthy of repentance.
      • You might question the wisdom of making a ruler upset about anything.  Back in the 1st century, it was a sure-fire recipe for being locked up or worse. But, wasn’t the call to repentance the very thing John’s ministry was supposed to be about?   Even before John was born of parents who were past child-bearing age, God had purpose for John’s life as recorded in Luke 1:17 - 17“And it is he who will go as a forerunner before [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF FATHERS BACK TO THEIR CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.[4]”  One would think if God ordained something to happen, nothing would stand in the way of it coming to pass.  John’s father, Zechariah, had to have mentioned the mission and purpose of John’s life to his son.  And both Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, as devout followers of God, would follow this prophecy and raise John to accomplish the Lord’s purpose.
  • Analysis: With this in mind, John the Baptist had to have known what he was going to do when he grew up.  I can imagine the rearing of John by Zechariah and Elizabeth had to be focused on preparing their son for the ministry.
    • Since faith comes from hearing the word of the Lord, what could have changed in John’s faith to the point of wondering whether Jesus was the One who was to come?  John’s disciples had reported to him miracles Jesus performed as recorded earlier in Luke ch#7.  They reported the miracle performed by Jesus in healing a centurion’s faithful slave who was sick to the point of death (Luke 7:10).  They reported to John the raising of a widow’s only son who had died.  How was she going to live if both her husband was dead, and now also her only son?  Jesus had compassion on this woman and raised her son from the dead in a town called Nain.
      • Wasn’t this the same John who confessed Jesus being the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world?  There are two places in the Gospel according to the Apostle John ch#1 where John the Baptist is recorded having referred to Jesus as the animal sacrifice made to God the Father that is the one sacrifice to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29,35).
      • This is also the same John who questioned Jesus on why He wanted to be baptized.  The Apostle Matthew recorded Jesus arriving at the Jordan river and coming to John to be baptized by him.  14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” 15 But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *allowed Him[5].  This is prima facie evidence that John the Baptist was very aware Jesus was the Messiah who was to come.
      • I said a few moments ago, “Expectations unfulfilled are what lead to despair.”  John knew by faith Jesus was the Christ, the only Son of God who was foretold of throughout the OT.  So why the despair after he was tossed into prison?  My best guess is John thought Jesus would be the 2nd coming of David, and what that would mean for the nation of Israel.  For example, there is clear indication in the OT Book of Ezekiel God intended for the line of David to once again rule over Israel.  This prophecy from the 7th century BC is just one prophecy from several prophets inspired by God in the OT.  Draw your own conclusions as I read to you from Eze 37:24-28 - 24 “And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes and follow them. 25 And they will live on the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and My servant David will be their leader forever. 26 And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 My dwelling place also will be among them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.[6]”’”  John the Baptist would have learned this prophecy from his father, Zechariah the priest. Again, this is theory, but it appears John may have thought Jesus came to restore the kingdom of David.  Maybe John also thought he would be part of Jesus’ ruling court.  That didn’t look so possible while sitting in a dungeon.
        • Remember, John wasn’t alone in thinking this way, because a few of Jesus’ own disciples also thought this way.  Just before Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead, the disciples asked, “6b…Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?[7]”  Few people seemed to understand Jesus was not ever going to be an earthly king.  Why would Jesus want to take a demotion from being a heavenly king who at this very moment is the Father’s right-hand man? It also wasn’t something Jesus was going to determine who would be His right-hand man.
    • We too like John the Baptist have been called by God to be faithful.  Why then do we have times of doubt? 
      • The prophet Isaiah wrote - 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it produce and sprout, And providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes out of My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it[8].  That sounds to me like if God called us to accomplish something on behalf of Him and His kingdom, it will happen!
      • Shouldn’t we therefore have a clear path in life to get the work of God completed?  I mean, shouldn’t the path made straight for Jesus now be a path made straight for us?
        • I confess to often times falling into that errant line of thinking.  After all, I work full-time in a very difficult job leading the Information Technology effort for the Pima County Sheriff Department. I come home at the end of the day, and I’m worn out from 9-10hrs of rapid-fire pounding of issues, demands, and failures.  It is a good thing you didn’t see me this past Monday evening after only a half day of work.  I was truly in despair, despite me knowing in my heart the Lord called me to get a job done for the Sheriff’s Dept, that job being to get new camera and Internet technology working trouble-free for 400 deputies and another 300 corrections officers. And if that isn’t enough demanded of me, the Lord called me to be a pastor of a congregation I’ve grown to love. I spend 10hrs/week just preparing a sermon and planning the worship service.  I want to do so much more.  I want to conduct visits with each member here at Christus Rex.  I want to evangelize and establish relationships here in Santa Cruz County.  I’m constantly reminded of the missed opportunities I have as a pastor and that leads to despair.  I’m one pastor of thousands just of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, each of whom deal with their own frustrations and failures.  Why is the ministry so tough to be successful on behalf of the Lord whom we love and serve?!  And why is it so many of us pastors have had to deal with despair leading to depression? We have the Gospel in our heart & soul.  Despair should have no place anywhere near us.  I suspect each of you have your own similar bouts with despair despite knowing you are a child of God.
        • Like John the Baptist, the reality is our expectations are out of line with the calling all of us have as children of God.  Listen to what Jesus told His disciples - 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves. 17 But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles....21 “Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved[9].  It sounds to me being a lover and follower of Jesus will actually bring misery while we have life & breath in this Age.  I’m pretty sure though, after Judgement Day, everything will be the opposite with lovers & followers of Jesus.  We will have everything of our eternal life go as it should.  But for the Jesus-haters and Jesus-deniers of this Age, they have nothing to look forward to except eternal separation from the God they wanted nothing to do with.  They will have achieved what they worked at all their life. They will eternally parish in hell, but away from God like they wanted.  Now that is real despair if you ask me.
  • Conclusion: Once again, let me say despair comes from unfulfilled expectations. So what are the righteous expectations by a child of God?
    • I have three (3) suggested expectations inspired from the scriptures.  These expectations will apply until we enter into heaven.
      • The 1st: Christ came to liberate us from the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil.  Jesus said to those who believed in Him, “34b…Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 Now the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free[10].  Sin nor death has no power over a child of God, because Jesus accomplished for us what we could not do.  He led a perfect, sin-free life in our place.
      • The 2nd expectation is Christ did not come to rule in this Age, because His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  Jesus made that clear to Pontius Pilate as Pilate cross-examined Jesus to find out why the Jews wanted Him executed under Roman authority. Do not put faith and trust in Jesus to return for a 1000yr reign.  That is the same mistake John the Baptist and some of Jesus’ disciple fell into.  When Jesus returns to this Age, that will be the second and final time He comes.  Until He comes, life might actually suck at times for a child of God.
      • And thirdly, Christ came that we would have hope in the midst of the suffering He warned us about that I read earlier from Mat ch#10.  The Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit - 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only that, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, through perseverance we wait eagerly for it[11].  Let us leave here on today with the reminder that despair comes from unfulfilled and maybe even unrealistic expectations.  None of us likes to wait for something good to come into our life. And yet, God’s word reminds us to stay focused on the hope through and in Jesus Christ that the day is coming when we will live with Him for eternity.  There will be none of the despair we experienced in this Age.  May the Holy Spirit keep us in this hope until we are with Him and the Father and the Son. Amen!


[1] Zec 14:9 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/zec/14/1/s_925001

[2] John 1:34 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/1/1/s_998001 emphasis by this author

[3] Luke 3:19-20 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+3&version=NASB

[4] Luke 1:17 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/luk/1/1/s_974001

[5] Mat 3:14-15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+3&version=NASB

[6] Eze 37:24-28 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eze+37&version=NASB

[7] Act 1:6 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+1&version=NASB

[8] Isa 55:10-11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+55&version=NASB

[9] Mat 10:16-18,21-22 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+10&version=NASB

[10] John 8:34b-36 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+8&version=NASB

[11] Rom 8:22-25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+8&version=NASB

Make Fruit Worthy of Repentance (Luke 3:3,8)

  • Introduction: We learned from the message of last week about how to recognize the Kingdom of God is near.  In the second of four admonitions of Luke ch#21, Jesus gave the example of a fig tree when it first sprouts leaves.  That is a sign that summer is near.  He related that example to when we see all the signs of the tribulation, the end of the Age is near.  This week, we continue on this Second Sunday in Advent with the theme of being prepared for Jesus to come.
    • Okay; so what?  We hear this every year in Advent about how we need to prepare for Jesus coming to us.
      • It is a big deal to prepare, just like we would spend a lot of time in preparation for the arrival of a King.  And the emphasis of Advent each year is to focus on the continuous preparation we really need to be doing throughout our life to one day meet up with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord as foretold in at least two places in the Old Testament that we will cover on today.
      • That preparation included preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus once said, 31…“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.[1]”  What He meant is if you don’t think you are a sinner, you don’t need to be saved from sins. Jesus therefore has no value to you, and you won’t see a need to repent.
      • However, true repentance is shown by making fruit worthy of repentance once we admit we are a sinner.  To repent means to go in the opposite direction of the sinful way we were headed. A person who is truly penitent is doing things pleasing to God and not offending God.  Turning from our sins and baring fruit to the Lord’s glory is what our goal should be for Advent and beyond.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, You called John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  By the Holy Spirit, You call us to prepare the way for Jesus to rule in our heart and soul.  Please have us make fruit worthy of repentance so that the day comes in our eternal life when we come to live with You for eternity.  We pray this, Father, through Your Son Christ, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: In order to appreciate the arrival of John the Baptist, we need to look into the Old Testament to see some of the prophecy regarding him.  The OT prophets Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi (3:1) both foretold of John the Baptist.  Isaiah was a prophet of God in the early 700’s BC to the late 600’s BC.  He spoke God’s word to the kingdom of Judah, because the ten tribes of Israel were wiped out in 722BC due to their refusal to repent. Malachi is acknowledged to be the last of the twelve minor prophets, and was probably a contemporary of Nehemiah in the earlier half of the 5th century BC.
    • We read first from Isa 40:1-3 so that there is a bit of context with the prophecy - 1“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her guilt has been removed, That she has received of the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.[2]A voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord ; Make straight the path of our God[3].  We find out by reading the Gospels from whom that voice was crying in the wilderness.  In the three synoptic accounts of the Gospel from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, each of them repeated the words of Isaiah 40:3 to indicate this prophesy came to pass in the work of John the Baptist (Mat 3:3, Luke 3:4).
    • Malachi recorded what the Lord spoke to him concerning the role of John. We read now from Mal 3:1 - 1“Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will clear a way before Me. And the Lord, whom you are seeking, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of armies. 
      • John the Baptist eventually was the messenger to prepare the way for Jesus. He was that person foretold of some 430yrs before his own miraculous birth to a previously childless Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It was miraculous, because each of them was past child-bearing age.
      • Only in the Gospel according to Mark are the prophesies of both Isaiah and Malachi mentioned together in the context of their prophesies fulfilled. Mark wrote - just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending My messenger before You, Who will prepare Your way; The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight![4]’”
      • This idea of preparing the way for someone dates back to ancient times. People had to walk pretty much everywhere, and so to make a path straight meant to make it easy for the dignitary to get to their intended destination.  This is true even to today.  I was involved with campaigns in my teen years.  If a high-profile candidate was scheduled to visit a certain location, there would be people visiting the place in advance to scout out the logistics and security.  Failure to have things effectively scouted in advance could lead to tragedy, such as the murder of President Kennedy in 1963.  I’m sure the Secret Service would like the chance to go back in time and do a better job of making the path straight for JFK to visit Dallas, TX on November 24, 1963.
  • Analysis: The JFK example is a secular example of what can go wrong if a path is not “made straight”.  That was especially a problem in the 1st century.  And don’t forget Satan tried everything to knock Jesus off from His path to literally save the world from its sins.  Nonetheless, what does advanced preparation look like spiritually?
    • From our text for today – 8a Therefore produce fruits that are consistent with repentance…[5] You might be wondering how “baring” fruit has anything to do with being prepared.  Preparation normally looks like cleaning house, or getting the car maintenance caught up ahead of a long trip.  But that’s not what the Lord had in mind with the scriptures pertaining to the first coming of Jesus.
      • When John the Baptist was preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins, many people who came out to hear him preach, took the message to heart. They then asked John what they should do to turn from their sinful ways. 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The one who has two tunics is to share with the one who has none; and the one who has food is to do likewise.[6]
        • Please understand, John was not setting up a quid pro quo in that if you share gifts you received from God with others, you would in turn receive blessings.  It may turn out that way, because God does reward faithfulness to Him and His word. But the blessings of God come freely. They are not for sale nor can you work for those blessings.  The blessings all come from His inexhaustible mercy despite the continuously offensive sinning we commit daily.  And that is the point: God wants us to share with others as He has shared His riches with us.  Giving to others is an act of showing thankfulness to God for what He has done for us.  It is a fruit worthy of repentance.  There is no reason for us to hoard anything.  Whatever we have today becomes worthless to us when we die.  Why not turn from our selfish nature and share?  That is one way to prepare for Jesus’ coming.
      • Another example John the Baptist provided to those who came out to the Jordan river to hear what he had to say - 14 … soldiers also were questioning him, saying, “What are we to do, we as well?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone, nor harass anyone, and be content with your wages.[7]”  Anyone in law enforcement is given power by the state over citizens.  There weren’t checks and balances in the 1st century like we have in the United States on today.  However, before you think you are in the clear because you’re not in a position to extort money from people, remember that every time you purchase something from someone, that purchase leads to that person’s wages.  These recent smash and grab lootings happening in major cities across the country are an example of extorting and cheating people out of their wages. It is in our nature to get things on our own terms.  In fact, we are content to not pay anything for those things.  There’s nothing wrong with working to get a good deal on something, but whatever terms are mutually agreed upon, we need to keep our terms of the deal.  We need to be content and not greedy with money the Lord has provided.
    • To recap, John the Baptist gave two examples in our Luke text for today which were identified as fruits worthy of repentance: sharing our riches with others; being content with the riches we have.  Those examples of fruits don’t come until we acknowledge our sins and then turn from those sins.  During the season of Pentecost, we followed the liturgy of Divine Service III from our hymnal. There was a portion of the Confession of Sins where the pastor would turn toward the altar to face God and say, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord.”  The congregation would respond, “and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  That liturgical portion of the Confession of Sins is taken right out of Ps 32:5 - I acknowledged my sin to You, And I did not hide my guilt; I said, “I will confess my wrongdoings to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin[8].  That isn’t something the hymnal writers decided on their own it would be something good to say week after week.  It is something King David wrote in one the penitential psalms which provide examples of acknowledging sins and sinfulness before the Lord.
      • David committed some well publicized sins.  But rather than justifying his own actions, he chose to confess his sins before God and seek forgiveness.  He would then turn from those sins.  He knew that failure to turn from sins leads to wasting away and sluggishness under the burden of sin.  He wrote in the two verses prior to Ps 32:5 - When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality failed as with the dry heat of summer[9].   How many people have you heard of who live under a huge burden of guilt because of something they did in the past that they just cannot escape?  If there is some sin you have done that haunts you, acknowledge and confess that sin to our Lord.  Don’t think you’re fooling Him by keeping something a secret from Him.  Acknowledgement is the first step toward receiving forgiveness from Him.  Failure to acknowledge sin causes people to commit self-destructive behavior that leads to wasting away in Margaritaville or some other place.
      • It is appropriate to have sorrow for sins.  The Apostle Paul wrote - 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.[10].  I have committed some sins that I am ashamed of to this day that were done 20-30yrs ago.  I know the Lord has long since forgiven me for those misdeeds.  I do have the peace of knowing my sins are forgiven because of His love for me and all believers.  There are no regrets.  However, the memory of those sins motivates me to never do them again.  That is what repentance looks like in a practical sense – go in the opposite direction of that sin so that it doesn’t happen again. 
  • Conclusion: The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans - 4Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance[11]?  The Holy Spirit prepares our way to heaven, leading us to repentance by calling us through the Gospel.  It is the kindness of God, that is, the Gospel, that brings peace to our soul. Martin Luther’s meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles Creed includes – I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  It is the good that the Holy Spirit does in our soul that brings us the peace which surpasses all human understanding.  That peace includes not being plagued and dogged by our sins.  It is this Gospel peace that leads us to repentance, preparing our way to meet our Maker someday without being all stressed out about the prospect of meeting him face to face.
    • What advice would John the Baptist give to us sinners in 2021?  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by continuing in rebellion instead of repentance.  Sin is rebellion against the Lord.  The prophet Isaiah wrote by inspiration concerning the Israelites whom God saved and redeemed from the slavery of Egypt - But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them[12]
    • The Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration in Eph ch#4 about a number of ways to turn from sin in true repentance.  He mentioned speaking truthfully to one another.  It’s okay to be angry, but don’t let that lead to sin. Anyone who steals should stop it and instead work for a living.  And let no unwholesome words come from out of your mouth.  And then in v30, he wrote - 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption[13].
  • Instead, bare the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ as was read earlier in this service from the Epistle for today (Phil 1:11). Let people around us see the fruits of repentance shine forth as part of our preparation to one day meet with Jesus. Amen.

[1] Luke 5:31b-32 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%205&version=NASB

[2] Isa 40:1-2 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isa+40&version=NASB

[3] Isa 40:3 from an original translation of the Septuagint Greek found at  https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/40/1/t_conc_719003

[4] Mark 1:2-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+1&version=NASB

[5] Luke 3:8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+3&version=NASB

[6] Luke 3:11, ibid

[7] Luke 3:14, ibid

[8] Ps 32:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+32&version=NASB

[9] Ps 32:3-4, ibid

[10] 2Co 7:10 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2co/7/1/s_1085001

[11] Rom 2:4 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rom/2/1/s_1048001

[12] Isa 63:10 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/63/1/s_742001

[13] Eph 4:30 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+4&version=NASB