Month: September, 2017

Sanctification

Text:  John 17:6-19

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

Please pray with me…

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe on 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.

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last day, He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”

Martin Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed.

As we conclude this series, we look to the work of the Holy Spirit. In our catechism, it explains the work of the Spirit saying, “The Holy Spirit sanctifies me (makes me holy) by bringing me to faith in Christ, so that I might have the blessings of redemption and lead a godly life.

Our first article had to do with the Creator. The second, Jesus Christ the Redeemer. And now in the third we look to the Sanctifier. The Holy Spirit.

The word, sanctification, is used in two ways. In the wide sense, it is the whole work of the Holy Spirit by which He brings us to faith and also enables us to lead a godly life. In the more narrow sense it is that part of the Holy Spirit’s work within us which directs and empowers the believer to live a godly life.

In summary, it is the Holy Spirit at work in us to bring us closer to godliness, to holiness, to righteousness and to grace.    1 Corinthians 6:11 puts it this way, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So, how is this process working in you? Are you being led to a sanctified life or are you still treading water in the oceans of secularism? Are you moving closer to godliness or are you spinning your wheels in worldliness?

“Luther says that by nature we are spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God therefore we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or even come to Him.” By our very nature we are water treaders and wheel spinners.

By our very nature we are condemned because of the sin we cannot shed. Yet God has provided His Holy Spirit to change everything. Now, in faith, we have been made whole and without condemnation through the faith worked into our hearts.

Now we have a future that is so amazing there are no earthly words that could describe it. Now we have the promise of everlasting life at the side of the one who loved us enough to make all this possible. Now we are made holy and pure by the refining fires of the Spirit.

Before Redeemer, I was blessed to serve a church in Ashton, Idaho. At the time, I was just a Deacon and I served in that capacity for three years doing full-time pastoral care just as I do here. It kind of just happened. At a meeting, I was at to help them through a split in their church that had just occurred, they asked if I would consider being their Shepherd. That was an evening that would change my life forever.

I asked one of the leaders of the church sometime later why they thought I would make a good pastor. His response kind of surprised me. He said that, for him, it all started when I did a study on the works of the Holy Spirit with them. It wasn’t something they had ever studied before and it really made an impression on him.

I’m afraid that happens a lot in our Lutheran churches. We tend to be very Christ centered. Not that that’s a bad thing.

We should be centered on our Savior. But we must not do it at the expense of proper instruction on the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must not miss out on the knowledge of our own sanctification.

The doctrine of sanctification is one of the most misunderstood teachings recorded in the New Testament. It’s hard to grasp God being able to make us very faulty people holy in any form.

Yet God cannot deal with un-holiness. As a just God He cannot allow it in His creation and there is no place for un-holiness in heaven. As you can imagine, this presents a big problem. A just and most holy God and His sinful and very unholy people.

Of course, we as children of God understand what he had to do to rectify this situation. Because we could not attain sanctification, holiness on our own, God had to make a way to bring it to us. He did this in His Son who took on our sin so we could take on His righteousness and holiness. He did it with His Holy Spirit to work faith into our hearts. Only a God sized love could have thought of that.

The root word in the Greek for the English word sanctify is the word hagizo (ha-gee-zo) which means, “to be set apart.” In the Old Testament, the root Hebrew word is kadash which means “to cut or separate.”

In either case, sanctification has to do with separation and it has to be because someone else did the separating. God made us to be His children separate from the world and, in the process, through faith instilled in us by His Holy Spirit, we became holy because He is holy. We are separated so that we might remain sanctified.

But it all has to start with God. Because only His Holy Spirit could call us by the Gospel. Only by word of His Spirit could we be invited into relationship with Him. Only by way of His Spirit could we receive any of our countless blessings.

In the Scriptures, we find many places where this amazing relationship is described:

1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 

2 Corinthians 4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

1 Peter 1:8, “Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” 

And Romans 15:13, “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.” 

And as we are sanctified we are also regenerated. We are, in a way, reborn into a holy existence, free from the condemnation we have inherited because of sin.

Luther says: “The Holy Spirit sanctifies me in the true faith, that is, by faith He works a renewal of my whole life – in spirit, will, attitude, and desires – so that I now strive to overcome sin and do good works.”

It wasn’t possible for our loving God to leave us condemned so He used that God sized love to bring new life to His adopted children through faith instilled by His own Holy Spirit. Through Him we have been renewed, born again, transformed from darkness into light.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 

This sanctification, this setting apart to be holy and worthy in God’s eye, is a gift from God that continues to transform us from hopeless to hopeful, from condemned to saved, from slavery to freedom.

But the Holy Spirit does even more than this. He leads us to use this new life for the benefit of God’s glory by doing good works. A good work is everything that a child of God does, speaks, or thinks in faith for the glory of God, and for the benefit of our neighbor.

In other words, good works all are those things that draw you nearer to  God. This is the very opposite of what sin does to us. Sin can be defined as anything that separates you from God.

The Holy Spirit creates good works in us to keep us on the right path to paradise. Through His guidance our relationship with God grows and grows until we get to that point that we can depend fully on Him.  Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Until that day when we see Christ again, the Holy Spirit will continue to create in us good works so that we might be prepared for that blessed day.

Later in the third article it shines the light of the Holy Spirits work in our churches, in the forgiveness that has become so vital to us and in the holy fellowship we share. Together, we make up one body in which the Spirit works. And as He works to bring us together, He guides us to a better understanding of our role in the whole. Really, the Spirit works continually to make holy what had fallen into sin. Praise God he will never tire or rest until all has been accomplished according to His will.

In order to receive these numerous blessings, however, we must be content to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. He won’t force you to do what you must, but He will continue to work in you so that you might come to an understanding of His desires for you.

Our sanctification is brought about by the deliberate separation of ourselves from all worldliness and un-godliness, from all that is unclean and unholy.

And that sanctification cannot come except through the Holy Spirit. Together he urges us to be holy instruments unto God for the accomplishment of His holy purposes. Through our final surrender to Him, we come into holiness, into sanctification, separating ourselves from those things which would hinder us in our course of faith. It takes effort on our part but those things most important in our transformation have already been perfected in the Spirit of God.

Open your heart to His leading as you understand His place in your life. Know that He never tires of helping you come to faith and nothing you do can ever stop Him from loving you enough to never leave you or forsake you. May the Holy Spirit lead you to all the exciting places he has planned for you. May His guidance show you the face of Christ in all of creation and may you be sanctified in truth according to His work in your hearts. Amen.

Bible Study: Sanctification

 

Text:  John 17:6-19

The first and the root meaning of the word sanctify (and ‘holy’ and ‘saint’, for they all come from the same words in the Hebrew and the Greek), is to set apart to and for a sacred purpose.

In what sense are believers of Christ “set apart” or “not of this world?” John 17:16

Where, in the Old testament, can we read of things being “set apart” in this way? Genesis 2:3; Exodus 29:43, 40:10-11

Can we achieve the goal of everlasting life without it? Why or why not?

What can we do to be sanctified? Leviticus 21:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Then how does one become sanctified? John 17:17,19; Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:25-26; Hebrews 9:13-14, 10:8-10; 1 Peter 1:22-23

Does it happen immediately, or is it a process? 2 Peter 3:18

How long will the Lord work the process of sanctification in us? Philippians 1:6

Why don’t get it all when we are justified?

What does sanctification do for us? Hebrews 2:11

After hearing God’s Word above, describe what it means to live a sanctified life. What kind of fruits should we see?

How could humility be seen as the greatest of these fruits?

For those who show these fruits, what will their reward be? Psalms 149:4;

What evidence shows that someone’s claim to sanctification might only be self-righteousness? Job 9:20; Romans 10:3

What foundation is sanctification built on? 2 Timothy 2:19

Why did the spiritual leaders of Christ’s time fail to acknowledge the sanctified life of Christ? Acts 13:7

What is the Holy Spirit’s role in sanctification? Ezekiel 36:25-28

What is God’s the Father’s role? Titus 2:11-14

What is our Savior’s role? John 10:34-38

What role should the church play in your sanctification? 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Can someone lose their sanctification? Explain

What are you prepared to do to live a sanctified life?

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

God the Son: Redemption

 

Text:  John 3:16-21

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

Please pray with me…

We continue, today, looking through Luther’s Catechism regarding his teaching on the Apostles’ Creed with article two. Here we focus on the  life and majesty of God the Father’s one and only Son. More specifically, this morning, we will speak of our redemption, our rescue from sin by the only one worthy enough to take the sins of the whole world upon Himself so that we might be saved, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

The second article is this: “I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell and on the third day rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

In this second article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther says that by confessing it we are saying that we believe “that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord, who has redeemed us, a lost and condemned people, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil,

not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” No one can say that Martin Luther ever suffered from a lack of words.

To me the greatest word for us in that explanation is the word, redeemed. Christ atoning for our sins. Our Lord creating in us a piece of Himself free from condemnation through faith. Our Savior who delivered us from sin by paying the ultimate price by the sacrifice of His very life for our sake. Once eternally lost, now purchased by His blood, our debt, incurred because of the sins we had committed, paid in full so that we might live a new life of faith and hope.

Our redemption is one of those blessings we tend to overlook sometimes because we take it for granted. We neglect to comprehend the enormity of it because we’ve been blessed to live with it for so long.

Yet it is so important that we remember in every prayer, really with every breath, just what a great blessing we have been given. This is much more than any worldly gift could be. This is a spiritual gift given to spiritual people. It transcends our life here on earth by promising us a much, much better life for all eternity.

You and I are called to make decisions based upon our spiritual lives. If our spirit is weak, we tend to get worldly by letting emotions and feelings rule our decision making process. But if our spirit is strong, our decisions are based in righteousness and the Word of God. It’s because of this that God wishes us to live in spirit and in truth, not in worldliness and emotion.

Because of the blessing of our redemption, we are holy and blameless, without the guilt and shame which once weighed us down. Because God’s one and only Son redeemed us, the devil can no longer harm us by approaching God with our sins.

Now the only way the devil can lay claim to our lives is if we live within our worldliness to the extent that he can entice us away from God by promising us the false redemption it offers. No longer can he claim us based on our own righteousness. Now, he has to draw us out by trying to convince us we have no worth or claim to our redemption that Christ has won for us through His blood.

Our New testament lesson says it best: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 

What a wonderful message of grace and forgiveness achieved once for all by the Redeemer of the world. This shows us that it was not by accident that Jesus came to earth. For all time God had predetermined for this redemption to happen. Since that fateful day our ancestors made the decision to not trust God, He had a plan to take us from death to life.

Not only that but He has adopted us as sons and daughters, for the purpose of our salvation. Each one of us plays a part because we are now each part of the same family under Christ. From the very beginning, Christ’s fate was set because God knew that only the perfect sacrifice could redeem His adopted children.

I take you back to verse 7 of the Scripture we just read.  It says, “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” 

Redemption cannot come through anything but forgiveness. The Barclay study Bible puts it this way, “For it is in Him that we have deliverance which cost His life; in Him we have received the forgiveness of sins, which only the grace of His love could give.”

When sin entered our hearts, it enslaved us to a world of heartache and bad choices. Some struggle everyday with this. Some try and deny it. But each of us carries the burden. On our own we all deserve the sentence of death because of the sins we have chosen. Yet Jesus Christ came to our defense by providing the ransom for our souls. That’s why the song goes “I’ve been redeemed…..by the blood of the lamb…..I’ve been redeemed…..by the blood of the lamb….I’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, saved and sanctified I am…All my sins are washed away I’ve been redeemed.”

1 Corinthians 6:20: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.”

That is why Christ humbled Himself, to take on the form of man and live with us as we live, so that He might purchase us at the cost of His own life. Now, therefore, since we are bought and paid for, our lives rest in Him. Luther says he humbled Himself in order to “redeem us, a lost and condemned people.” Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” 

So, since we have been bought at such a high price, Paul tells the Corinthians that we are to now glorify Him with our Body. The dictionary definition of glorify is “to honor with praise, admiration, or worship.” In other words, we bring honor, praise and admiration to God for all He has done to redeem our wretched souls. We do this by making all we do, glorify Him.  With every step you take and every move you make, you have the opportunity to glorify God for all He has done for you. Your whole life should be a ministry to Christ due to the redemption He has won for you.

Get a new job? Make it a ministry. Make a big purchase? Glorify God in its use. Move to a new state? Plant the seeds of righteousness he has provided you. Have a new child? Baptize Him into the family of Christ and bring him or her up with the knowledge of God. With every opportunity given you, you will be given a new opportunity to glorify God for all He has done for you.

You have all been redeemed for a purpose. When you fulfill that purpose, you have once again glorified God. We were not set free from sin so that we might wander around aimlessly through life with no calling or mission or passion. We were redeemed so that we might live for God, according to His will and not our own. We were redeemed to accomplish something greater than anything we could accomplish on this earth.

In sin, our life is wasted and of little value as we travel from one empty purpose to another without direction or guidance. In sin, we continually try to lay up for ourselves treasures which are temporary and ultimately meaningless, where moth or rust destroy.

But because of our redemption, we no longer need to walk the wide path to destruction. Now we can make the most out of our lives by glorifying God in all we do.

The Bible says that “without vision the people perish.” Now we have something to live for, something to grasp on to.

Now we have a bridge to heaven that spans over all the heartache and sorrow this world has to give. When we were redeemed we were given hope and a purpose. That’s what a God sized love can do.

So, grasp on to the hope that Jesus Christ has provided you. Strive for a higher calling in life, one that supersedes what the world expects from you.

In the kingdom of God, you are either all in or all out. Don’t waste the gift of redemption that cost your Savior His life to provide. Redemption is a great blessing. Not only did he pay the price that we could not pay, but he has given us a vision and a purpose in life. When we embrace that vision and God’s will, there is a strengthening of our spirit that can withstand hell itself. Amen.

 

 

 

Bible Study: John 3:16-21

 

How does this text reveal our sin (self-centeredness) and how we do not live as God desires?

What incident is John referring to in verse 14-15? Numbers 21:4-9

What has one to do with the other? What is Jesus talking about? Is it about more than Jesus on the Cross? Isaiah 45:22; John 8:28, 12:32; Acts 2:33

What are the differences?

Is there a double meaning to the words “lifted up?”

Why is  John 3:16 referred to by Luther as the Gospel in miniature?

What does it mean when Jesus says that God so loved the world?

Why is it that the person who does not believe in Christ is condemned? Verse 18, Acts 4:11-12

Was it Jesus’ mission to condemn? Explain

How about those who have never heard of Jesus? Romans 1:18-25

Why do people have troubling believing in Jesus? Verses 19-20

What does it mean to love the darkness?

How do you think Nicodemus felt as he left Jesus that night?

What do we know of Nicodemus after this encounter? John 7:45-52, 18:38-39 What does this possibly tell you of their encounter?

What are some present day examples of how God loves the world?

What would life be like now if God had not sent His Son? Discuss

The Seven Wonders of John 3:16. Discuss each element.

God The Almighty Authority
So loved the world The Mightiest Motive
That He gave His only begotten Son The Greatest Gift
That whoever The Widest Welcome
Believes in Him The Easiest Escape
Should not perish The Divine Deliverance
But have everlasting life The Priceless Possession
 (Note:  Bible Study materials are gathered from various resources, i.e. Bible.org)

God the Father: Creation

John 1:1-14

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

Please pray with me…

In the beginning, God…. The first four words of the Bible. These four words truly explain all of creation. At the very beginning of time, the dawn of creation, there was only God. And this God from the very beginning of time existed in three persons. Verse two of the Bible, “The earth was without form and void, and the darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” From John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…..And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” One God in trinity, co-equal and all eternal.

We’re starting a new series based on the teaching of Martin Luther regarding the Apostles’ Creed. In his Catechism, he has broken it down into three distinct articles. Article one expresses our faith in God the Father. Article two does the same for God the Son. Finally, article three deals with our belief in God the Holy Spirit. Three persons, one God who have existed from before time.

Our first article: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Luther says this means that we “believe that God has made us and all creatures; that He has given us our bodies and souls, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and still takes care of them.

Martin says it means that He is the one who gives us our clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all we have. He richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support this body and life.

He defends us against all danger and guards and protects us from all evil.

And he does all of this only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. For all that is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”

It’s interesting to me that Luther chooses to put a tag on his explanation, “This is most certainly true.” It tells us that even in Luther’s time, people had trouble dealing with the truth so much that he had to remind them what was true. Since the beginning of time, things have remained the same. Adam and Eve didn’t trust God the Father and today, we struggle with it also. We make up our own truths to fit the God of our making. Yet, from the very beginning of time, there has only been one truth and that truth has always resided with our Father in heaven. The creator of all. Omnipotent, omnipresent, and forever our only God who knows all and works through all.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I never behold (the heavens filled with stars) that I do not feel I am looking in the face of God. I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up, into the heavens and say there is no God.”

The first book of the Bible is all about beginnings. That’s what Genesis means. Here we witness the beginning of the world, the beginning of man, and the beginning of sin. Later this would lead us to read about the beginning of our sacrifice for sin. From the very beginning, God has continued to create man in His own image and from the beginning, we have tried to redefine that creation. Yet the love that caused Him to become the creator has never left us. He is as involved in His creation now as He was through the first six days of time.

Hebrews 1:10, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of Your hands; ”Those first four words of Scripture, “In the beginning, God,” are vitally important because they tell us who the creator is. They show us the author of life and the true owner of all things. The earth belongs to God because He designed it, He created it. We may play a part but God owns the stage. In fact, He owns the props, the makeup, the lines and even the actors.

Everything we enjoy here on earth is on loan to us from a loving God who claims ownership out of divine goodness and mercy. Everything we are or hope to be depends on the grace of a willing God who promises to show us the path to ultimate success, everlasting success.

A group of scientists got together and decided they no longer needed God, “We’ve decided we no longer need you,” They said. “We can do all kinds of things through science. We can even clone people and make body parts, so we just have no use for you anymore.”

Hearing this, God gave them a challenge. He said, “Let’s have a man making contest just like in the days of Adam.”

The scientists agreed and bent down to grab themselves handfuls of dirt.” God just smiled and said, “No, no, no – you get your own dirt.”

Everything is His from the smallest kernel of sand to the greatest redwood. It’s all God’s from the tiny atom to the largest of the stars. Once you figure that out, the truth of Scripture starts to make even more sense.

But to know the truth, you have to start with the Creator. If you follow this path, then you will soon come to know that without the Creator, nothing else matters. Nothing has a purpose. Nothing has real value beyond its earthly cost. IF YOU TAKE God out of the picture of life, you end up with an empty frame, a meaningless existence.

Without God, there is no meaning to life. Because it is the Father that creates value in this world and in us. Without the Creator, you’re left with nothing that has any real value to it in this world of sorrows. Everything you see is then nothing but a mere accident, a chance collection of atoms and molecules with no plan or purpose. This beginning that scientists are so eager to prove has no real value beyond its fortuitous collision.

But you put the Creator back into the picture and everything suddenly makes sense because now everything has a purpose and a value. With God as Creator everything has light and nothing is without worth.

Psalm 40:5, “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Ephesians 2:10,”For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

In every chapter of every book of the Bible, God shows us that we have value and that we were created for a purpose. But if God isn’t part of our lives, all of that goes away and all we have left is emptiness and limitations.

Think about this from Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” So great was God’s love for us that He created us in His own image above all the beasts of the field to be caretaker of His creation.

Each and every one of you is a miracle with value and purpose. Each one of you are worth more money than the world could hold because each of you possess the likeness of God.

Unfortunately, too many only see what the world tells them to see. So many find no value in themselves. The world tells them they’re losers and they believe it. Bullies try to destroy you with their taunts and we start to think of ourselves the way they want us to. What you THINK you are shapes Who you become.

Yet, God’s creation is perfect. In His eyes, you have no flaws. In His eyes, He sees greatness in you and He hopes you find the potential He has built within you. He hopes you follow His path so that you can achieve all He has planned for you.

If you think you were born without a purpose, you couldn’t be more wrong. If you think you were born to lose, God begs to differ and He longs to show you just how wonderful your life could be.

God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

That is our purpose. That is our commission. We are the caretakers of the world and in charge of God’s creation. No other part of all creation has been given this blessing. No one and nothing else has been given this great responsibility. Just you and I because to God, we have value.

I hope you see now how obvious God should be to the world. But if not, let me give you a few scientific facts.

The earth is in what’s called the “Goldilocks Zone.” It’s not too close to the sun and not too far away.

If the earth were 1 degree closer to the sun, we’d fry! If we were 1 degree further we’d freeze.

If the moon were any closer to the earth or any larger than it is, the tides would destroy the earth. If the moon were any smaller or further away, the oceans would die from a lack of nutrient movement.

If our distance from Jupiter were any greater, asteroids and comets would pepper the earth. If we were any closer our orbit would become unstable.

If earth’s gravity were any stronger, it would retain too much ammonia and methane for life. If it were any weaker, earth’s atmosphere would lose too much water and we wouldn’t have enough liquid to survive.

If the earth’s crust were any thicker, it would absorb too much of our oxygen and we wouldn’t be able to breathe. If it were any thinner; the earth would move and shake beneath our feet and would make life impossible.

If our oceans were half their present size, we’d only receive ¼ the rainfall we now enjoy. If they were just 1/8 larger, we’d get 4 times the annual participation we do now and our earth would become a vast, uninhabitable swamp.

Now, I could give you a thousand similarly astonishing facts about the earth that God created but this should be enough to show you that our loving God always had a plan for us…for you.

“He has done all this,” Luther says, “only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.” And for this  we owe our heavenly Father all we are for all His goodness and grace towards us. Luther says, “It’s our duty to Thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” Psalm 116:12, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?”

He asks that in return you trust in Him by giving your all to Him. He asks you to look after His creation as the stewards of this good land He gave you. He asks you to surrender your hopes and dreams to Him so that He may lead you to your ultimate purpose in this life and the next. He asks for nothing less than everything you have to give. So, trust in your creator to perfect you. Lean on Him with every opportunity and trust Him to lead you to places you never dreamed you’d see. Amen.

Kingdom Power and Glory

 

Luke 11:1-13

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

Please pray with me…

The other day I received a Facebook challenge. At first it was nice, a quote from Christ asking for His disciples to trust Him. Then it turned sour when it asked me to forward the message to ten friends and Jesus would reward me for my faithfulness. As you might have guessed, I declined to pass it on. I then took the opportunity to tell this person that what she was asking went contrary to her first message. How much do you trust God if you think His grace comes by human means? There is no way to earn further blessings, especially in chainmail on Facebook. All power, glory and might are already His and all His blessings are given by grace alone. I choose to trust in that. I received a message back saying, “Good point.”

This morning we conclude our series on Luther’s catechism teachings on the Lord’s prayer with this final petition, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever amen.”

Luther says this means that we should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by Him; for He Himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us. Amen, amen, which means “yes, yes, it shall be so.”

Yes, Yes, it shall be so! God tells us in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Yes, Yes, it shall be so! Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Yes, yes, it shall be so!!

Have you ever stopped to think about what an almighty thing it is to hear every prayer? Have you ever imagined what kind of love it would take to even care? Over and over we prove our unworthiness yet God loves us enough to hear every word, every plea, every anguished groan. Not only that, He cares enough to answer every request. Yes, Yes, it shall be so.

And how do we know that God is able to answer the prayers of His people in Christ Jesus? He tells us. First, Luther says, he reminds us that He alone is the King who has all good gifts in His control.

From James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

It has always been part of God’s character to care for His creation and from the beginning of time He has opened a willing heart to listen and respond. It is His delight to offer us good things and He is the source of them all.

In fact, His love is so all encompassing that we take for granted the many gifts He gives. By His mighty power He provides the air we breathe and the food we eat. He provides the relationships we value and the families we cherish. All good things come from our loving God purely out of His Godly goodness and grace. And His love for us will never wain nor will He ever tire of providing all we need in this life for there is no variation or shadow due to change in Him.

Secondly, Luther says that we know that God is able to do this because He alone has the power to grant our petitions. From Psalm 33, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” And from Ephesians 3, “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly then all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Only God has the power to answer prayer. Only God is mighty enough to do all we ask according to His will. Only God possesses the glory due Him because of His mighty works. His kingdom will never end and one day we shall inherit by faith because it is His will for it to be so.

With a simple Word, God can do all things. So vast is His authority in fact that we could never imagine it. That is why so many try to bring Him down to our level. That is why so many cheapen His grace.

So many limit God’s power by rewriting Scripture to shape God into their own image. They say “God cannot find enough faith in an infant to Baptize them.” “God cannot give us actual body and blood in the Lord’s supper.” “God cannot condemn man for this or that.”

Because His power can’t be imagined, we have, in our minds, put brakes on His capabilities. We have limited Him to our own worldly capabilities forgetting that His realm is vastly different from our own.

Trust in God to shape you into His image. Depend on His power in every phase of your life. Allow Him to show you His love for you as His glory shines in your life. Let His kingdom come in your life.

Finally, Luther says that God is able to answer the prayers of His people because all glory is His and he is worthy of our praise. From Psalm 113: “The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?” And from 1 Timothy 1:17, “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

The choice is still yours. You can either believe His Word or reject it. You can either surrender to Him or try it on your own. God will or force response. But for those of you who put their full trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, your reward will be God sized, unimaginable, glorious beyond all measure. Why? Because He told you so.

These words are actually absent in both versions in Matthew and Luke. In fact, the Catholic church doesn’t include them either. So why do we pray them to end our prayer?

In part, it is because we are adding nothing new. The whole prayer up to this point has described this same kingdom, power and glory we pray about. In every petition it is this kingdom, power and glory we depend on. In this petition, we give glory to God as we focus on His power and majesty. These words give us a reason for the hope that we share. They show our God faith that these petitions will be both heard and answered. They declare that it’s not about us but about God. It is, therefore, a blessing to be able to recite these words every Sunday and it’s unfortunate that so many churches have decided to omit them.

We end this prayer the same way we end all prayers, by saying “Amen.” Up to this time we have made many vital requests:

  • The we would live and bring honor to God’s name
  • That our lives would be God’s kingdom where He is present and rules our hearts
  • That God’s will would be done in and through us
  • That God provides for our every need
  • That God would forgive us and give us the will and the ability to forgive others
  • And, finally, that God would protect us from temptation and every evil

But now we end this prayer with our Amen, “Yes, Yes, it will be done!!”

By living a life of righteousness, we bring honor to God’s name.

By surrendering our very lives to Him we allow His kingdom to come to our lives and even to the lives we touch.

By allowing God to rule our hearts we match our will with His own will

By thanking Him for all he has given we acknowledge His power to love us in a Godly way.

By imitating His forgiveness of others, we become Christ to the world.

By resisting the temptations and evils of the world, we show His power for good.

We pray the Lord’s prayer with the assurance that God will answer us. When we end this prayer we are not asking ourselves questions like, I wonder if I prayed for what God wanted me to pray for?” Or “I wonder if God really heard me?” or “I wonder if God will answer my prayer?”  By saying your Amen, you declare that there are no “I wonders.” By saying your Amen you are saying that you understand that God will answer this prayer, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

The Lord’s prayer is a powerful prayer taught to us by Jesus Christ Himself, the one we depend on for the faith we share. It is a life transforming prayer filled with all the petitions God looks for to bring us to a new life. When we come to the end of this prayer, we know that God will answer us and we will be changed into to His image and not the other way around. Together we pray this as the people of God, the Body of Christ and His most fortunate creation.

Please pray with me:

Lord, may your mighty power forever rule in our hearts as we bring your light to our dark world. May your kingdom reign so that we might come to an end of our sorrows. And my your glory shine for all to see so that, even unbelievers can no longer deny you. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Bible Study: Kingdom, Power and Glory

 

 Luke 11:1-13

Why has this prayer been called the perfect prayer?

Why is prayer important to Jesus?

How would you summarize the prayer in verses 2-4?

What is the significance of Jesus saying ‘When’ you pray, and not ‘if’ you pray?

What did it mean to Jesus to call God “Father”? What does it mean to you? Romans 8:15; John 20:17; Acts 17:26-28

How does one become a child of God? John 1:12-13

What does it mean to hallow God’s name? John 17:1,4 How do people dishonor God’s name?

How often do we pray that God’s name would magnified, glorified, lifted up, celebrated?

How does the topic of the coming kingdom relate to Jesus’ ministry? John 17:21

How does it relate to the disciples coming mission?

How would you summarize Jesus’ teaching on prayer?

What would encourage you to pray more, and to pray more boldly?

This is actually the second time Jesus taught this prayer to His disciples (Matthew 6:9-13). How does this enforce the importance of this prayer?

Why do you think some churches no longer pray this prayer during their services?

How can this prayer lose its meaning?

What is the most important section of this prayer for you? Why?

How is Luke using the story of the ‘friend at midnight?’  How would you state the big idea of that story?

Describe what Jesus is saying when He says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Think out of the box.

What is it that everyone who asks receives, finds, and has opened to them in verse 9?

Who is it that is ‘evil?’

What is the difference between the ‘good gifts’ that parents give and the Holy Spirit that God gives?

How does one pray with confidence?

Are we ready to enroll with Jesus in His school of prayer?

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