Month: January, 2017

Charity–Inherit the Kingdom

Text:  Matthew 25:31-40

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

What determines the value of a life? Is it riches? Is it position? Is it rank? What makes one life more valuable than another? Is my life more valuable than yours because I am in full-time service to God? Is your life more valuable than the beggar on the corner because you are more productive? Are my sons and daughters lives more valuable than many of ours because their younger?

One life may be worth more than another according to the world because the world looks at things like position and rank to judge one person against another. It sees the beautiful as much more worthy of attention than the homely and the rich much more valuable than the homeless. The world judges upon worldly values, but that’s not the way God sees it.

To God, every person is a miracle created in His image. He loves each one of us equally. He doesn’t see age, or worldly beauty. He could care less if you were white, black or pink. To God, every person is immensely valuable because every person has been given his own special purpose under heaven and each of these purposes are necessary for the whole.

You might have heard me say that we were never created to serve ourselves, but rather we were all created to serve each other.

Sure, in some ways we have to serve ourselves so that we might serve others. We need to provide for ourselves food and shelter. We are the temple of God, after all, and we need to take care of the bodies and families that God has given us. But, by and large, that should not be our main purpose in life. No, we were not created to put ourselves first above everyone else. We were created to be humble in service to others. That is why the first will be last and the last will be first.

The life of a Christian from God’s perspective is a life of service to others, and worship and praise to God. We are called to put our God above all else and to treat our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to serve humanity in all its needs. We are to care for the less fortunate more than we care for ourselves. We are to think first of those who have been cast down and walked upon, those who have made bad choices and are paying a heavy price for doing so. We are called by God to serve those who have been orphaned by society, who are spiritually, economically, and physically handicapped.

God never called us to live for ourselves, but to reach out to those people whose eyes have been blinded by the sin of the world, leading them out of darkness and despair and into His marvelous light. God expects us to live for Him by taking care of each other. To be His hands and feet as His servants and His mouth and voice as His ambassadors.

God expects us to live for Him, while at the same time serving the disenfranchised. If we truly want to experience the full blessings of God, we must first be a blessing to others. We all need to learn how to live beyond ourselves.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is giving a lesson on Charity. He begins by telling of the time of final judgement. Here all people will be gathered before God and He will separate those condemned on His left and those saved on His right:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” 

Clearly, God puts a heavy value on those who choose to serve others. He invites those who thought of others before themselves to inherit His kingdom. Those who choose self before all else, received a different fate.

The text tells us that when we serve others, we are, in effect, serving God. As one comes to Christ, they automatically become a missionary. That’s because praising and worshiping God includes service to others. By using our hands and feet in His service we bow down before our God in adoration. When we speak up for those who cannot defend themselves, we carry God’s love to others.

So are you a missionary in name only? When was the last time that you tried to truly give of yourself to those who are less fortunate than you? How many times have you seen someone in need and passed by on the other side? Jesus teaches us in Luke 10:30-37:

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now, by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (The lawyer) said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

If we ever want to receive what God has in-store for us than we must live our lives according to His will and not our own. We must follow His Plan and not our own worldly designs. There are far too many church bodies that are more concerned with money and earthly trappings than they are about mission. Here at Redeemer, we have certainly shown, at times, a mission heart, more than many churches our size, yet there is so much more we can do. Because if we are not serving each other, then we are not serving God. It’s more than about throwing money at something, though that is certainly a blessing. It’s about being where the needy are and understanding their plight. To fully understand what they’re going through, you have to experience it for yourself in a way.

I wonder today if we have really counted the cost of what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be His disciple? Well, first I think it means we must deny ourselves.  In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

God has an inheritance for you. It is a kingdom free from all of the anger, sickness and death we see all around us in the world. It is a kingdom of grace and peace beyond human understanding. But, to inherit it, we must put our trust in God before the trust we put into ourselves. To inherit the kingdom we must value the life of all of God’s people in such a way that we place them and their needs before ourselves. Our call is to feed the hungry, give relief to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger and cloth the naked. We are called to care for the sickly and visit those who are imprisoned whether in penalty or addiction. We are called to be Christ in this world.

Romans 15:1: We who are strong have an obligation to bear the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please Himself. But as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 

It is time to roll up our sleeves and do the work that God has called us to do in the spirit of love and faith because, without faith it is impossible to please God.

Now some of you might be uncomfortable with me telling you to do even more than you are doing. Some might find it overwhelming. Some might even find it impossible.

I am here to tell you that, not only is it possible for you to do more, it is necessary. God will guide you and, even in this He will never leave you or forsake you. You’re not too old or too poor or too disabled to make a huge kingdom difference for those who you help and for you.

God is calling us to live beyond ourselves. Somebody out there needs you so be there for them. Someone is counting on your charity to get them to the next step in their own lives. Someone is counting on your faith in Christ to start the journey of faith in their own life. Somebody needs a helping hand and they are waiting for you to give them just that. Your testimony should include how you were able to be Christ in this world and it should include how your own faith and hope in Christ was strengthened by the service you gave.

If someone out there can see Christ in you, they’ll be able to see Christ even better themselves. So feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger and cloth the naked visit the sick and go to the prisoner. Inherit the kingdom God has for you. Then when you do this, prepare yourself for the day you hear your Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

Bible Study: Charity – Inherit the Kingdom

 

Matthew 25:31-40

How do verses 31-34 remind you of how God is portrayed in the Old Testament? Revelation 20:11-15

The Bible speaks of the certainty of the judgment, but often signifies different agents.         1. God as Judge: Romans 14:2; 1 Peter 1:17 2. Christ as Judge: John. 5:22, 27; Matthew 16:27; Acts 10:42; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1 3. God through Christ: Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16

Why do you think this is?

Who is the Son of Man? Daniel 7:13; Matthew 16:27; Mark 8:38; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7

Who are “all the nations?” Exodus 19:4-6

Who are the goats? Matthew 7:21-23, 13:21-22; 1 John 2:9,11,19, 3:15, 4:7-21

Who is the King of verse 34? Revelation 17:14, 19:16, Verse 40

How does one “inherit” the kingdom in the context of verse 34? Matthew 19:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Titus 2:14; 1 John 1:7

Does this mean we are saved by works? Explain Ephesians 2:8-9,10; 2 Timothy 2:21; 3:16-17; Titus 3:1; Hebrews 13:20-21

How does it make you feel to know that God had plans for you “from the foundation of the world?” John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4

How is doing what Christ has asked us to do a form of worship?

Is this form of service different then what God asked His people to do in the Old Testament? Isaiah 58:6-7

What does Jesus mean by calling the “least of these” His brothers?

What are some ways one might feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Welcome the stranger? Cloth the naked? Visit the sick? Come to the prisoner? Try to think out of the box.

So, why must we do what Jesus is asking us to do in verses 35-36? Verse 40

Why is serving the needy like serving Christ Himself?

Why do we find it difficult to do some of these things, even knowing that we are serving Christ by doing so?

How do you plan to fulfill this duty to serve your neighbors in need?

Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources. (i.e. Bible.org)

Hope Is Here

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the stronghold of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.

Before this, when Soviet Leader President Nikita Khrushchev died, a humorous story circulated in political circles. The Communist party who’d cast Mr. Khrushchev aside were uncomfortable about burying his body on Soviet soil. So they called the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, asking if the U.S. would take Khrushchev’s corpse.

Nixon had his own problems at the time and declined. Then the Soviet leaders tried Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. She was agreeable but added, “I must warn you that this country has the world’s highest resurrection rate.”

Hope and resurrection. In Christianity they go hand in hand because the resurrection of Jesus gave us hope that death is not the end. That a better life is to come. Hope is one of the necessities of the Christian life.

In fact, hope is something that everyone needs. Hope, with faith. Luther said, “Faith and hope are different affections, for faith is not hope nor hope faith; and yet, because of the great affinity that exists between them, it is impossible to separate them because by faith we begin our spiritual journey, by hope we continue it, and by revelation we shall obtain the whole.”

Of course, everything depends on who you place that faith and hope in. Personally I’m a huge advocate for placing all of your faith and hope in Jesus Christ.

In verse 27 of Colossians one, the Holy Spirit through Paul calls Jesus Christ the, “Hope of Glory.” It is Christ who leads the way to glory. It is Christ, by who’s sacrifice we were saved that guarantees satisfaction of the hope we have, or, to be even more specific, it is because of Christ that we have any hope at all.

Without Christ and His unselfish sacrifice, we would have no hope for anything beyond this life. I was watching a talk by esteemed apologist Ravi Zackarious last Tuesday evening and he made a good point about the kind of hope we have inherited. He said, if there is no hope in anything beyond this life, then both Hitler and Mother Teresa died to the same fate, nothingness. In the end it didn’t matter if they had saved millions or killed millions. Hope, guides us to understand the moralities of God.

Our verse in Colossians reminds us that it is Christ who lives IN US. Our hope will never be in vain because the one and only God has chosen us and, by knowing this, we obtain that hope in which we stand. When we look back at our lives, we see little but imperfection and it is easy to become discouraged and to lose hope. But, when our faces are set on Christ before us, we remember what had to be accomplish to give us all things and we are brought back to hope.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Our God is the very source of true hope. It is yet another of God’s incredible gifts to us. And since it is of God, it has to mean something. So what does hope really do for us? Well, in Romans you just heard that, through God’s Holy Spirit we are filled with all joy and peace in believing.

In other words, through faith we obtain true hope which is supplied in great quantity by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. People everywhere are looking for something greater than this life. Unfortunately, too many place their hope in lesser things which could never answer the call. We hope our money will win us friends. We hope our fame will make us happy. We hope this drug will take all our cares away. This is a false hope that the devil uses to keep our hearts and minds occupied so that we have no more hope to place in the only thing that will save us and assure us of everlasting life. We, as Christians, know that, lasting joy and peace can only come through the faith we place in our Savior.

We can hope because the Creator of all things has given us that hope. Think of that for a second. The God of all the universe cares enough about you to give you pure hope. The King of kings and Lord of lords, loves you enough to want you with Him for all eternity. This omnipotent, omnipresent, God is our hope. What an incredible gift we have been given.

Yet, there are so many in our world without that most incredible gift of hope because they have chosen other paths to follow, much wider paths that only lead to destruction. Ephesians 2 tells us too,

“Remember that you were at (one) time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

In our world, there are millions who search for hope but who place their hope in things that can’t provide. They are without Christ, without faith, without salvation because their hope is misdirected. They place their hope in the world, that it might save them somehow. They disregard the guidance of God’s law. They discredit His influence. They run from His love as if it’s something that will hinder them. They remake the rules calling bad things good and good things bad to satisfy their own warped ideals of right and wrong. All the while, they unknowingly sacrifice glory for nothingness. They cannot enjoy the world because its promises are shallow and weak, yet their minds are clouded to the point they can’t help but stumble through existence with nothing to look forward to but an everlasting void.

This is what Jesus came to save them from, this emptiness and uncertainty that all life was destined for before His death and resurrection. And, yes, we were part of that group whom Paul called the separated. At one time we were lost both to faith and to hope. Yet God claimed our lives through Holy Baptism and everything changed. That is when hope made its way into our hearts.

Romans 8:24-30, For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

That is what we place our hope in. That is the hope we were baptized into. The original Greek translates, “We were saved in hope.” That is the hope by which we are saved. We are saved by faith in hope yet our hope does not end with our salvation. Our hope continues all the way to heaven where there will be no more of the worldly things which drag us into murky waters. We Christians now hope in the redemption of our bodies and in our spiritual inheritance, assured by the promises of God for something much greater than this world could ever offer.

We praise God because hope is here, right here. It is a gift of faith which carries us from this world of tears into the arms of the Savior. We are God’s children, and “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. So, in patience, we wait for the fruit of the hope within us, certain of God’s promises and faithful to His will.

In the meantime there is work to do to share this hope we have been given to those who lack it. We cannot hurry along our reward until we have finished the work God has placed before us. The fruit of all this labor will change our old lives into new lives in Christ.

1 John 3:2-3, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Pastor Robert Kerr once said, “Our “living hope” arises out of a solemn assurance of our salvation, this hope is stirred up within us by the Spirit of God. This hope operates within us in a holy manner, it purifies us. It makes us better people. Loving people.”

Hope is here for you. Grab it while it’s before you. Put your full faith and hope in our resurrected Lord. He has given you His gifts so that we might give of ourselves. Hope is here. Amen.

 

Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 – Hope

 

What is Christian hope?  Romans 8:24-25

How is hope synonymous with salvation?

How does hope change 1) What we value?  Matthew 6:19-21 – 2) What we do with our lives?  Titus 2:1-13; 1 John 3:1-3

What happens when we put our hope in other things than God?  Job 8:11-13; Psalm 33:17; 146:5; Proverbs 10:28; 11:7, 24:14

Why is it proper to call the one true God a “God of Hope?”  Psalm 62:5; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Timothy 1:1-2

What does hope depend on?  Romans 15:4; Colossians 1:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:13

What is hopeless hope?  Psalm 49:7-10; 146:3-6; Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 7:11-15

When will the Christian’s hope be fulfilled?  Titus 2:11-14

How does Christ’s resurrection from the dead give us hope eternally?

What does it make us if Christ did not rise from the dead?  Verse 14  Explain

Is Christianity worthwhile if all that is left is good morals?

How is Christ’s resurrection and ours inseparably joined?  Verses 20-22; John 14:19

What does vain faith look like?

Why are Christians most to be pitied if we have hope in this life only?

What consequences does Paul identify in denying the resurrection in Verses 13-19?

What are the firstfruits as stated in verse 20?  Leviticus 23:9-14

What is the significance for us of Jesus being the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”?  Acts 26:22-23; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:4-6

What is the contrast between Adam and Christ?  Verses 21-22, 45-49

Since Christ lives, what does He assure us about ourselves?  John 5:21,26,40; 6:57; 14:19; Colossians 3:4

After doing this Bible study, how has it changed your view of Christian hope?

 

Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org

Faith That Can Move Mountains

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Are you a mountain mover? Do you have the ability to transform the mountains in your life into something manageable simply by using the faith in God within you?

We are so blessed to look outside many days and see beautiful Mount Baker from our parking lot. You have to see through all the powerlines to do it, but it’s there. When we take a moment to really study it, we can see its majesty and it reminds us of what an amazing God we have. Now imagine having the faith to move that incredible chunk of earth. I think that would take a pretty profound faith, don’t you?

Well, sometimes in our lives it seems as if we have to move mountains almost as daunting, mountains of guilt, mountains of work, mountains of stress, mountains of unhappiness. There are moments in life that seem like we’ll never be able to climb out of the valley we’re in. We try, but the summit seems insurmountable. In the end, all we have is our faith in God to pick us up and carry us out of our dilemma. God is telling you today that your faith is enough to do just what you need it to do.

Jesus made this promise several times in Scripture. In Mark 9 a father brings his convulsing boy to Jesus hoping for a miracle “And Jesus said to Him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”

Last week we heard the familiar words from Luke 11: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Philip asks Jesus in John 14, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” And Jesus ends the explanation of His sovereignty with these words, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” And finally, one chapter later in John Jesus is describing Himself as the true vine and He includes these words, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

The type of faith Jesus is talking about here is the kind of faith that moves mountains, it’s the kind of faith that even makes God take notice.

Unfortunately, this kind of faith is a challenge for everyone who has to face the world every day. In the world we are told to place our faith in other things that are much less dependable. We place faith in ourselves apart from God. We place faith in the false gods of the world. We place faith in people who don’t have our own best interests in mind like Jesus does. And so, we pay for our lack of faith in the one true God and we find ourselves in our own self-made, insurmountable dilemma’s. For many, it’s only in these instances that we go to our rather week faith in God Himself.

 Martin Luther had much to say about this kind of mountain moving faith. He says that this kind of “Faith is the yes of the heart, a conviction on which one stake’s one’s life.” He says that it is more than mere knowledge, it is a love activated. “It is not an idle quality or an empty husk in the heart, which could exist amid mortal sin until love is added and makes it alive. But faith is real, it is a sure confidence of the heart and a firm assent, by which Christ is apprehended in such a way that He is the object of faith – in fact, not the object either but, to put it this way, in such faith Christ Himself is present.” “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” 

Now, I could attempt to tell you how that faith might be yours. “10 easy steps to mountain moving faith.” But, in truth, there is really nothing I can do to guide you there. That’s something only God can do. Faith takes confidence but, unlike worldly faith, this kind of confidence can only be given, not achieved.

The truth is that our confidence is built in God, by God. It takes a willingness to permit His guidance. It takes a want to build your relationship with the Creator. It takes the courage to set aside the advice the world gives for the direction only the Holy Spirit can provide. Once this is achieved, that mountain moving faith you wish for can be yours.

How many times in your life have you been advised to dive into the Word of God to find your answers? How many times have you been urged to shed worldly charms for holy ones? 100’s of times I bet. So, how many times have you decided to answer God’s call? Because it’s really He who is advising you through others. When you wonder why you don’t have the mountain moving faith you wish for, you have your answer. Only God can take you there. Nothing I say or do today can help you if you’re not willing to take the next step.

Mountain moving faith comes from looking at God, not looking at the mountain. The mountain just reminds you of the challenge, but God reminds you that all things are possible through Him.

Most of us know the story. Jesus is among thousands of people listening to His every word hoping for a miracle in their own lives. In the process, the people are hungry so He feeds them as only He could with five loaves and two fish. Afterwards He needs to regain His strength so He goes to His Father in prayer for several hours.

Meanwhile, His disciples are on the lake He had been near during this miraculous meal when a storm arises, a storm so violent it even scares the fishermen who have spent a great deal of their life on that very lake. They know what a terrible storm can do and each of them have heard and may have even experienced stories of lives lost.

Yet, just as He always is, Jesus was there when they most needed Him. Yet this time the situation is much stranger because Jesus is actually walking on the water towards them. They notice Him but are fearful, having never seen something like this before. So Jesus soothes their worries with His Words saying, “Do not be afraid.” 

Peter, ever the bold one, wishes to join Jesus and Jesus says, “come,” and it says in Matthew 14, And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord save me!”

He took his eyes off of Christ and started to look at the mountain in his life, here the storm. The faith he once had was overshadowed by the doubt that had crept into his life because of the difficulties he was now experiencing. Instead of having a faith that says that all things are possible through Christ, he focused on the limitations of the world. Instead of focusing on His Lord, he succumbed to the only knowledge he knew.

It’s easy to fault Peter, but we do the same every day of our lives. We say it can’t be done without even looking at the possibilities that present themselves in Christ.

God’s first advice to you is to set your faces like flint upon the only one who can save you and come to Him in Word and Sacrament at every opportunity.

Because mountain moving faith only comes to someone when they are willing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Only people who commit themselves to a lifelong journey of faith can truly reap the benefits Christ offers you today.

Our Savior died and rose again so that we might have this opportunity. Because he was able to take away the obstacles of sin and death that were there to hinder us, we have been given the great blessing of being able to walk side by side with our Savior through the murky waters of the world all the way to the clear waters of heaven. Our faith was made possible through His death. Our hope was achieved when he rose again because death could not defeat Him.

Mountains come and go in our lives and it seems that when we have finally tackled one there is another to take its place. All of life is a struggle to stay on the narrow path that leads over the mountain. But God has given us faith through the work of the Holy Spirit to overcome the odds. With each passing day He works in us a faith to be the yes of our hearts. He would much rather have us sitting on top of the world in joy then to be languishing in the valleys of our sorrows.

God asks you today to come to Him through faith in prayer, not only for your sake to make your life better, but also so He may glorify you. He asks you to depend on Him and to believe in His promises for you. He asks you to shed your dependence on the world for something that offers you everlasting hope.

Is there a need in your life that has become to you an insurmountable mountain? Have faith that Jesus will provide the answer. Is there something you’re have long prayed for but has not yet been realized? Don’t give up now. Keep the faith. Your answer will come. Is there someone in your life that needs this kind of mountain moving faith to carry on in their life? Don’t stop praying for them. Have faith that God works in their life just as He works in yours.

We are all capable of a mountain moving kind of faith, but only those who trust in Him to provide it will ever see the summit. Our God is always dependable and His time is always the right time. Have faith that your prayers will be answered, that your potential will be seen in you and that your God is always with you to move the mountains in your life so that your salvation might be seen. Amen.

 

Bible Study: Faith That Can Move Mountains

 

 Matthew 21:18-22 – Faith

Earlier Jesus was cleansing the temple, how are these two lessons related?

What do you think the withering of the fig tree is symbolic of? Jeremiah 8:13

Why were the disciples “astonished”?

Why do some people say that it is unthinkable that Jesus would be that self-centered and irritable?

How does a lack of fruit bring judgement in our own lives?

In Mark, it says that the fig tree didn’t have fruit because it was not the season for figs (Mark 11:13). What more can you draw from the lesson Jesus was teaching by knowing this? Isaiah 29:13-14; Colossians 2:21-23; 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Why, do you suppose, Jesus did this miracle in front of His disciples so they could see it?

Why is doubt so damaging and how does one avoid it? Matthew 17:20; James 1:6-8

Is Jesus saying we have to have some kind of super faith?

How does verse 21 affect you personally?

Jesus gives us an unconditional promise in verse 22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” compare Matthew 18:19; John. 14:13-14, 15:7,16, 16:23; 1 John. 3:22; 5:14-15 with Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8, 18:9-14, Mark 11:23-24; James 1:6-7, 4:3. What is God really telling us through these verses?

How is this linked to God’s will and mankind’s faith? Ephesians 3:20-21

  • The worst thing that God could do for faithless children is answer their selfish, materialistic requests. Those believers who seek the mind of Christ ask for things that please God and extend His kingdom.

How are our sins really a question of faith?

How are prayer and faith connected?

Is faith necessary for God to work through us? Explain

How does our faith, then, aid God in the greater picture of His ministry towards all people?

How does the world effect our faith walk? How can we avoid this influence?

Is having faith in God enough? Hebrews 11:6

How does your faith inspire you?

What does dead faith look like and how do we avoid it? Matthew 7:21; James 2:20

(Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

Sermon: New Life

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

We have talked much in the past about the wide and narrow paths and how they affect us after death. To summarize, the wide path is easy and leads to eternal death and the narrow path is difficult and leads to eternal life. Pretty black and white. You are always on one path or another. The trick is to keep ourselves on the narrow path despite the challenges provided by temptation and the devil.

Well, I would like to expand on this illustration and talk about God’s grace because it is only by His grace that we have the opportunity to travel the narrow path at all. Only by God’s grace can we hope to enter the narrow gate into heavenly glory to be where Christ is.

Well, you can’t really talk about grace in all its beauty unless you speak of the greatest Spiritual fruit, love. Because God loved us enough to send His own dear Son to this world to take on the sin that was cursing us, we, by God’s grace have hope and hope is key because without God’s grace provided out of His love for us, we have no hope. No hope for forgiveness, no hope for salvation, no hope at all for anything but condemnation after this life. God didn’t need to provide any of this, but thanks be to Him who provides us with all good things by His grace.

This is hard for us to understand because its beyond our reasoning mind. Why would God care enough about us very faulty people to provide anything, let alone eternal bliss with Him in heaven.

But our misunderstanding haunts us, even as God guides and directs us through His Holy Spirit. Some people, for instance, think this grace extends to those who don’t ever take the time to be in God’s Word. There are those who live by cheap grace. They live their lives as if there is no God at all and still expect all the benefits of His grace, just because.

Paul addressed this in the beginning of our New Testament lesson in Romans saying, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  In a more modern day translation Paul would say, “Are you crazy? No way! How can you expect God to just ignore your sin?” That wouldn’t be fair to God and, frankly, it wouldn’t serve us. There has to be requirements that guide us, expectations from God, or all that we’d have left is cheap grace. Expecting cheap grace from God would be like standing in a burning home so you could get the undivided attention of the firemen trying to save you.

By no means!” Paul says. God’s grace is this amazing gift that only He could provide and it should be appreciated for what it is.

It should be honored as much as the one who provides it and we honor God and His grace as we seek to live our lives according to His plan for us. Not my will but yours be done Lord. We Honor God and His grace when we resist the devil and all His works. We honor God by being His hands and feet and voice piece in this world. It says in 2 Timothy 2:4, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Do you think we’re there? Does God have need for people of faith today?

Thankfully, God provides us with ways to do those things we are called to do to honor both Him and the grace He provides. We have God’s Word and Sacraments by which the Holy Spirit directs us. We can rely on His promises towards those people who choose to live for Him and Him alone.

Our Old Adam is no match for God when we earnestly come to Him for salvation. Those who trust completely in God have died to sin, Paul says. Our new life has begun in faith. Satan has no more power over us.

And now Paul goes even further in our text as He explains just how God went all out to remove sin and to provide an eternal promise when He says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Newness of life. That is what Baptism gives us. And this is an area of contention between some churches. Some claim Baptism to be merely a symbol or they claim that we have to somehow be the deciding factor in it as if it were something we were giving God and not the other way around. Like its some kind of outward expression of our acceptance of God and not the beautiful expression of God’s acceptance of us.

This morning in our Gospel lesson, we read about the Baptism of our Savior. Do you believe He did this because He was finally old enough to understand and now He could accept the Father, or do you think it was an expression of God the Father’s love for His only Son? That day in the Jordon, God’s Words were meant as a blessing to His Son to give His Son strength for what was to lie ahead for Him. The power was in the Word of God, not in the decision of the Son. So let’s break down Paul’s words here to see that Baptism is much more than a symbol because a symbol doesn’t actively make the sort of changes that Paul is talking about.

All of us who have been Baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into His death.” This is not some symbolic gesture and this has nothing to do with any promise we might be making towards God. This is a promise from a loving Father towards all those who follow His command to be Baptized. He is telling us that we have died with Christ. Something inside us has ceased to live. This is an action that puts us into Christ.

“We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, we too might walk in newness of life. Another result that can only be provided by the love and grace of God to give us hope. Because of these incredible gifts, we have been united with Christ in a death like His and were also united with Him in a resurrection like His. Because of Baptism, we receive New Life.

We cheapen God’s grace when we feel that we are the one’s creating our own faith or moving closer to God by way of our own efforts. We cheapen God’s grace when we see Baptism more as an expression of our acceptance of God than we do a vehicle by which His acceptance of us provides us the new life He has promised to all those who put their faith and trust in Him. Baptism is done because we place our trust in His Word, not because of the trust we have put into our own faith.

We embolden God’s grace when we look to God as our only source of redemption and faith. We support God’s grace when we look to and cling to the many incredible gifts He has given us including the gift of a new life in Him through the waters of Baptism.

If you’ve ever wondered why Paul connects the idea of cheap grace with a reminder of what takes place in Baptism, you now have the answer. We are carried by Baptism INTO His holy name, INTO Christ our Savior, INTO His glorious death and resurrection and INTO new life in Him and Him alone. We are Baptized in CONNECTION WITH Christ, with His death and all its saving power. A symbol does not put you INTO anything. Thinking it’s more a gift from us to God rather than a gift from God to us cheapens His grace and fails to see the true beauty of the Sacrament of Baptism.

Baptism is God’s guarantee to us. It is a blessed gift of God to keep us on the narrow path. It is a means by which the Holy Spirit moves us to greater things than this world could ever provide. And it forever connects us to Christ and His atoning death. He did not give us this gift because His work on the cross was incomplete, rather God gave us the gift of Holy Baptism, so that He could have a physical means to apply Christ’s atoning work.

Peter tells us in His first letter, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ!”

Hopefully, we will no more take God’s grace for granted. No more should we, somehow, try to work ourselves and our accomplishments into the equation as if God cannot work in the hearts of anyone he chooses, even infants. Christ’s death upon the cross was a mighty act of love that paid the price for our sins as it provided a way for God’s Holy Word to dwell within us. His death and resurrection gave us the assurance that sin no longer has mastery over us. Yet, we are still sinners. Praise God he gave us a means by which His Holy Word would wash the ugliness of those sins away as it instills in us New Life. Amen.

 

Bible Study: New Life

 

Romans 6:1-11

“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”  How can sin be a problem if it leads us to greater forgiveness?

Does the gift of grace give us freedom to sin in any way? Why or why not? Romans 5:20-21; 1:18

What is the effect of this infusion of grace?

What is the definition of cheap grace? How is remaining unbaptized until you “accept” Christ fit into this definition?

When one receives the Sacrament of Baptism what supernatural sequence of events takes place which images the life of Christ?  Colossians 2:9-14, John 3:3-8

Is Baptism something that saves us by itself or is it a requirement for our salvation? Romans 3:20-22, 28, 4:2-12

Why then be Baptized? Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21

Is baptism only a symbolic death? Galatians 3:27-28; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4-6.

What does it mean to be “in” Christ, “in” one Spirit, “in” one body?

What does “newness” point toward?  2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:14-16; Colossians 3:5-11.

How does this “newness” compare to what was lost to humanity in the Fall?

In verse four is there any significance in the word “walk”?

What promise does Paul make that affects our future in verse 5? Explain.

If we have died to sin, do we any longer have to worry about sin condemning us?

How can we who are freed from sin still practice it? Proverbs 26:11

What is freedom to the Christian? What does it mean to you? Verse 7

Why then do some people see Christianity more as a burden then a source of freedom?

Is our new life merely symbolic? 2 Peter 1:3-4

Are you a slave of sin? What are the negative and positive lessons we can take from this passage?

What does it mean to you to be dead to sin and alive in Christ?

Note:  Materials for the Bible Study are gathered from various resources. (i.e. Bible.org)