Unbelievable Sacrifice

The first liturgical reading for the 1st Sunday in Lent is challenging in light of the events of this past week. In Genesis 12:1-3 and 15:1-6 God had given great promises to Abram [name changed to Abraham in Gen. 17] about having a son, even in advanced age for himself and his wife Sarai.

After this son, Isaac, is born (Gen. 21), God asks him to do the unthinkable. Note specifically how God addresses Abraham:  “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” Abraham follows through with God’s instruction. But God stops him before the sacrifice of his son is done. God addresses him in the same way as v. 2: “you did not refuse to give me your son, your only son” (v. 12). God provides a ram instead for the sacrifice.

What God did not allow Abraham to complete, God eventually does. He offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice.

10 Yet, it was the LORD’s will to crush him with suffering. When the LORD has made his life a sacrifice for our wrongdoings, he will see his descendants for many days. The will of the LORD will succeed through him. 11 He will see and be satisfied because of his suffering. My righteous servant will acquit many people because of what he has learned ⌝through suffering⌟. He will carry their sins as a burden. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

The Gospel reading for Feb. 4 (Transfiguration, Mark 9:2-9) occurs in the middle of Jesus’ earthly ministry, emphasizes this sonship (and love) of Jesus again.

Then a cloud overshadowed them. A voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Note the prelude to that sacrifice in Mark 1:9-15 when Jesus is baptized (Gospel reading for this Sunday).  “You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you” (v. 11).

And then the final piece of the sacrifice comes in Mark 15:34.

At three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The beloved Son is now the rejected Son, abandoned even by His very own Father in heaven. By doing so, Jesus carried the sins, not just sticks of wood to the mountain (i.e. Isaac), but with His own suffering and death. After His resurrection from the dead, God’s approval and love is complete—Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s plan of saving sinners.

This is true because Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

When we believe Jesus is our Savior, then God has some wonderful words for us to hear and remember.

Before the Passover festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus loved his own who were in the world, and he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Don’t love money. Be happy with what you have because God has said, “I will never abandon you or leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God our Father loved us and by his kindness [grace] gave us everlasting encouragement and good hope. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

Especially pertinent in light of the agony and affliction many have experienced recently, Paul writes about the significance of God’s love.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35 NAS)

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 NAS)

May this love be yours in Jesus Christ. May you live in light of that love, hope, and encouragement.

An unbelievable sacrifice through Jesus becomes the believable sacrifice for us, for salvation from sin, for new life, for cleansed conscience, and the promise of eternal life, with no pain, sorrow, loss, death, or tears.

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Genesis 22:1–18 (GW)

1 Later God tested Abraham and called to him, “Abraham!”
“Yes, here I am!” he answered.
2 God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place that God had told him about.  4 Two days later Abraham saw the place in the distance.  5 Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go over there. We’ll worship. After that we’ll come back to you.”

6 Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to his son Isaac. Abraham carried the burning coals and the knife. The two of them went on together.
Isaac spoke up and said, “Father?”
“Yes, Son?” Abraham answered.
Isaac asked, “We have the burning coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God will provide a lamb for the burnt offering, Son.”

The two of them went on together.
9 When they came to the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied up his son Isaac and laid him on top of the wood on the altar. 10 Next, Abraham picked up the knife and took it in his hand to sacrifice his son.

11 But the Messenger of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes?” he answered.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you did not refuse to give me your son, your only son.”

13 When Abraham looked around, he saw a ram behind him caught by its horns in a bush. So Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide. It is still said today, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

15 Then the Messenger of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I am taking an oath on my own name, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not refused to give me your son, your only son, 17 I will certainly bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of their enemies’ cities. 18 Through your descendant all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

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Christmas Story Continues

22 When the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he came into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he received Him in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace,
according to Your word;
30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation
31  which You have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 Joseph and His mother were amazed at those things which were spoken about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

(Luke 2:22-35 MEV)

Reading Luther

As we enter this 500th year celebration of the Reformation, the danger is that we might read about Martin Luther. However, how refreshing it might be to read what Luther actually wrote. Obviously Luther wrote more than most of us read even in a year. So let’s narrow down the list of writings that will expand our knowledge about Luther as a writer.

One invention, the printing press by Gutenberg, appeared ~70 years prior to Luther beginning to write for others. The printing press allowed the rapid spread of Luther’s writings, not just books but especially pamphlets. Thus, instead of what took weeks, months, or years for hand written copies of what he wrote, the speed of the printing press drastically shortened the time from writing to distribution, not just for one copy but many copies.

What should I read?

Confessional writings

As Lutherans we do not follow Martin Luther, rather we confess the same Christian faith that he did. Our public statements of faith are compiled in The Book of Concord, dated in 1580. Surprisingly, Luther only wrote three parts of the book: Small Catechism (1529) Large Catechism (1529) and Smalcald Articles (1537). However, his influence on the others confessional writings is evident. He reviewed and approved of the Augsburg Confession (1530) and the Apology [Defense] of the Augsburg Confession (1531). Further the next generation of theologians who wrote the Formula of Concord (1580) borrowed heavily from Luther, quoting some passages in length.

So a starting point for reading Luther is to read his three writings in the Book of Concord. If you have been raised in a Lutheran church, you are very familiar with the Small Catechism. Luther wrote it to help parents teach the Christian faith to their families. In addition, Luther wrote sermons for pastors to teach the congregations, published as the Large Catechism. Thus, the two catechisms complement each other. Reading both will enhance your understanding of the key topics of the Christian faith.

Early writings

The 500th celebration of the Reformation highlights one of his earliest writings (Oct. 31, 1517): “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” better known as the “Ninety-Five Theses.” You can search online for this document. Luther’s direct approach to false teaching emerges in this document and continues in his later writings. He also wrote “An Explanation of the 95 Theses” in 1518. Even in this early period, Luther focused on the Church and the individual Christian. Here is the first thesis:

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said “Repent,” willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

Other early works worth reading: “Heidelberg Disputation” (1518) and “Two Kinds of Righteousness” (1519). In 1519 the Leipzig Debate presented a theological disputation originally between Andreas Karlstadt, Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Johann Eck [papal expert]. The topics were originally to be: free will and grace. However, Eck and Luther met and expanded the topics to purgatory, the sale of indulgences, the need for and methods of penance, and the legitimacy of papal authority. In the debate Luther claimed that sola scripture (Scripture alone) as the basis for Christian beliefs. In June 1520 Pope Leo X banned all Luther’s views from writing and preaching.

There are three significant writings from 1520: “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning The Reform of the Christian Estate,” “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” and “The Freedom of a Christian.” These three have significant influence on the public life of the 1500s and lead to the Peasants Rebellion and later to the nobility responding to control the masses.

Other Important Writings

Because Luther wrote doctrinal statements and discussed what is commonly called systematic or doctrinal theology, we have to realize that his other writings were more closely related to his specialty, namely exegetical theology, particularly the Old Testment. Thus, as you begin to search his exegetical writings you discover his series on Genesis (8 books in English translation), his commentaries on the Psalms, and his commentaries on the Minor Prophets (1524-1526). Perhaps the premier commentaries include his ones on Galatians (1535 ed.) [vol. 26 and 27 in English] and his commentaries on the Gospel of John (1537) [vol. 22, 24 in English].

This list is only a sampling of what Luther wrote. But your time will be well spent reading some of these books and articles. And there is no need to rush through them. Take time to understand the key points, to appreciate his writing style (even in Enlish), and to give thanks that God used Luther who dedicated his life to teaching the Christian faith.

For Further reading:

Here is a web site that provides a chronological list of Luther’s writings with the English volume references.
https://lutherantheology.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/luthers-work-chronological-website2.pdf

Sermon: Matthew 18:15-20

Preached Sep. 10, 2017

Forgiveness in the Church and for the Church

 

Matthew 18:15-20 CSB

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you. 18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8XYDMInOhQEekY1SXJYU29ralE/view

Sermon Matthew 16:21-28

Sermon preached on September 3, 2017

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8XYDMInOhQENjN6VHZfVFcxY1U/view

Matthew 16:21-28 (NAS)

21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to His deeds.

28   “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

The unthinkable becomes reality

Romans 5:6-15 is the epistle reading for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 18, 2017). The pervasive reality of sin had always been an obstacle for humans relative to God. No amount of work or effort or wishful thinking could remove that barrier.

The barrier between God and humans existed because of sin that was inherited from the sin of Adam. Every person is born as a sinner, we never have to teach someone to sin let alone how to sin. There are two aspects to the barrier:

  1. The positive demand to be perfect could not be met by human sinners. (Matthew 5:48; James 2:10)
  2. The negative consequences of sin meant that the sinner had to die to pay the penalty of sin.

Left to their own devices, sinners could never satisfy either part of that demand. That meant that sinners were helpless. As Paul writes in our text, Jesus was the solution to both aspects. He  lived that perfect life (2 Cor. 5:17) in the midst of temptation to sin (Hebrews 4:15). In our text, he wrote: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Note the consequences: “declared righteous,” “saved,” “reconciled.” All of this is entirely God’s gifts to us. And that is worth singing about:

Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God! Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to God! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1-2)

Romans 5:6-15 (CSB)

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned. 13 In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to a person’s account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression. He is a type of the Coming One.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if by the one man’s trespass the many died, how much more have the grace of God and the gift which comes through the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflowed to the many.

By faith in Jesus, we have a perfect standing before God, forgiven, restored, and waiting for that final salvation.

Wonderful news to ponder daily and give thanks.