Month: November, 2017

Being Different For Jesus

 

Luke 13:22-30 / Daniel 3:8-30

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

Please pray with me…

It’s not often I get to preach on the book of Daniel. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. Daniel is the person I was named after, so I do have some knowledge of the person Daniel.

His name means, “God is my judge.” That sounds familiar. He was carried off to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar sometime during his reign from 605 -562 B.C. and before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Luther says that Daniel was “a splendid, great man in the sight of both God and the world.” Though he was never a king he rose to the position of doing the duties of a king. He was loved by the king but hated by rivals. He was a brave man in the company of unbelievers and he was a prophet and messenger of God. Daniel was all these things but that’s not what I like most about him. I like Daniel most because, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in our Old Testament lesson, he dared to be different in a world that looked down on diversity.

Most, if not all of us, are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Because he would not follow a new decree and bow down and worship the king, he had to face the lions. Now the king loved Daniel, but his rivals convinced the king to make this law so as to get rid of Daniel knowing he would never acquiesce because of the love and devotion he had for his God, and they were right.

The king, by royal decree, could not back out of what he had written into law, even though he had a great deal of love for Daniel. And, because Daniel would not obey this new law he was forced to suffer the penalty the law decreed, Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den. But he survived because of God’s protection. After this, Daniel was saved and his rivals were forced, because of their deception of the king, to suffer the same fate. Only, this time, the lions did their duty.

Daniel dared to be different even though he knew it could cost him his life. This is the same fate the three heroes of faith faced in our Old Testament lesson. They dared to stand for what was right among other’s who wouldn’t dare. They stood firm on faith where others would have said what they must to stay alive. They dared to be different for God.

The Bible is filled with people of faith who dared to be different for God. Moses faced Pharaoh, Jeremiah and the other prophets faced their own people as they worshipped other gods, Esther faced the king to save those same people. And just as they did, we too are called to be different in a world growing farther and farther from Godliness.

Our calling is to be different. Different from each other in that we all are given different gifts and different from the world. Different in our thinking, in our actions, in our worship, in our devotion…different.

In our New Testament lesson, Peter says we are called to be Holy, something the world is not. He says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, be different than the world for Jesus sake. We are to set our hope on Jesus. Not in worldliness or selfish desire but in Jesus. Jesus is our hope and our source of grace. The world would have you believe something else….anything else. But the truth remains the same. We are called to be different for Jesus because only He can give us hope.

Romans 12 makes this even clearer. It tells us to, Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in Spirit, serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

All good advice to be sure. But to fulfill this calling you will have to be different than the world and you will have to be different for Jesus sake and not your own. 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were brought before the king for doing just as Daniel had done. They refused to bow down to anyone or anything other than the true God. The king and his men tried to change them into what everyone else had become but they refused. Even under threat of roasting in a fire they stood firm because they were different from the world. In the end, God saved them also for daring to stand up for what is right.

Philippians 2 makes it clear to whom we must bow, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is asking us to be like Him, humble, steadfast, faithful and determined. He knows people will try and change us to be more like the world but His calling remains the same. Instead, we are to be in the world but not of it. Focused on godliness and not worldliness. Faithful to one God above all false gods, Steadfast in that faith so much so that it defines us. Determined in mind, body and soul to make a difference for the sake of Jesus Christ.

We are to bow to no one but the one highly exalted, whose name is above all names. It was Jesus who gave us the perfect example of what we are to become. In a world that needed a Savior, He became the definition of deliverance. When He was persecuted for speaking the truth, he remained committed to His Father’s calling. When His own people would not believe in Him because they were expecting a Warrior Messiah, He proved that love was a better weapon then revenge. He was born in a different manner to reign in a sick world. In the end, He would stand victorious over sin and death because he was unique.

Now its your turn to live by that example. Will you be thrown to the lions or led to a furnaces fiery death? Probably not. But could you be persecuted for remaining different than the world? Most likely.

Yet that is what we must be. If we claim the name of Christian, it requires us to be unlike anything of the world’s creation. Jesus has won for you the right to be different. In Him we have hope so that we may take our distinctive heritage another step higher, another step further in faith. By His grace, He will lead us to greater places than hurt and anger could ever take us.

Let’s all be different for Jesus, our Savior, our Sanctifier, our King. The world might hate you for it, but your Savior, Sanctifier and King will show you one day that its all worth it in the end. By His unselfish death He made us to be children of God, but that requires us to be changed into the image of Christ and removed from this valley of tears.

In our story from the book of Daniel, our three heroes told Nebuchadnezzar that they did not fear the furnace for, as they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” In his fury, the king makes the furnace even hotter and throws them in but something unusual happened.  It says in verse 24, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to the counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”

Then they answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

The romantic in me thinks the king was right. Only instead of it being the son of the gods it was the one and only Son of the one true God standing in that fiery furnace with the three. In the end, not even a hair was singed and the King bowed instead.

Dare to be different even against seemingly insurmountable odds. Let Jesus save you if that is required and face your challenges with the same faith as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The world will try to make you conform, but be different than the world. Trust in Jesus because its still all about Him. Amen.

Bible Study: Luke 13:22-30

 

Are there only a few people who are going to be saved? 13:24; Matthew 7:13-14 Why didn’t Jesus answer this with a yes or no?

Should his answer worry us? Why or why not?

Jesus says, in verse 24, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” Is this saying that we must “work” for our salvation? If not, what does Christ mean? (ἀγωνίζεσθε = to fight or struggle – used to describe the effort made in war or athletic events. Hebrews 12:12-17 Other uses of the word 1 Corinthians 9:24; Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7)

Who or what is the door? Why is it narrow? John 10:9; (interesting verse –Luke 16:16)

In what different ways do people make an effort to enter the narrow door?

What should we be striving to enter into? Hebrews 4:11; Revelation 20:12,15

What point is being made when the owner of the house gets up and closes the door in verse 25?

This passage is very clear that the opportunity for salvation is time-limited. When will it be too late for an individual? For mankind?

Who is the “you” that Jesus is speaking of in verses 24-28? Luke 3:7-8

What is the urgency seen in verses 25-27? Matthew 25:1-13

What causes God not to “know” us as portrayed in this story? Matthew 7:23

How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? What is wrong with their thinking?

What does the phrase “the last will be first and the first will be last” mean for Christians today?

What is awaiting for people who find their way through the narrow door?  Verse 29; Isaiah 25: 6-8; Luke 14:15.

 How can we make sure that when it comes our time to enter through the narrow door that God will know us?

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

Deserting Grace

Text:  John 6:51-69

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

Please pray with me…

Erma Bombeck used to tell a story that illustrates our “grace starved” culture. One Sunday while attending church, she saw a young child struggling to keep proper etiquette. He was squirming, humming, turning around in the pew, and smiling at other parishioners. Finally, his mother jerked him by the arm and said in a course whisper that was loud enough to be heard by most of the congregation, “Stop that grinning.” Then she gave the child a firm spank on his fanny as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Bombeck said that she would not advocate misbehavior, but she wanted to hug that tear-stained child and tell him about a God who is happy and smiling. “My God has a sense of humor big enough to have created someone like me.” She wanted to say to the mother, “You fool. You are sitting next to hope, light, and joy without even noticing. If you can’t smile at church, where else can you go?” If you can’t find grace in a church, where else are you going to find it?

We have spoken in the past of the many gifts God has given us that we often take for granted. We get so worried about our mortal lives that we forget about Christ’s promises of eternal life. We get so caught up in the business of life that we forget about the peace Christ has won for us by laying down His own life.

We beat ourselves up because we’ve messed up to such a great extent that we forget about the grace and forgiveness through repentance bestowed on us from a loving God who will do what He has to so that He might grant us these gifts, even if it costs the life of His own dear Son.

In our Gospel lesson today in John chapter 6, we witness the confusion at Christ’s Words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Their confusion led them to miss the message of God’s grace and the sacrifice behind His love.

In our New Testament lesson in Galatians they were missing the message of grace in the one true Gospel message because they chose to believe in a Gospel of their own design. Paul gives them a stern warning when he says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” He even repeats it twice for more emphasis.  Like today, they were getting so caught up by the hope they might find in the world they were missing the gifts of grace received by the Spirit. They had missed the beautiful call in the grace of Christ because they were searching in all the wrong places.

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul addresses one of the most controversial subjects of the Christian faith. While most Christians agree that salvation is a divine work of grace extended to those who respond to God’s offer of eternal life through faith, numerous disagreements have plagued the Christian community how to live once we are saved.

Mark Twain used to tell the story of putting a dog and a cat in a cage to see if they could learn to get along. They did fine after a few adjustments. Then they tried a bird, pig and a goat. They got along surprisingly well. Then Twain put a Baptist, Methodist and a Lutheran in the cage. In less than two days, nothing was left. The sad thing is, sometimes you don’t have to put three different denominations in the cage. Sometimes you can put in three LCMS Lutherans and they’d kill each other in a matter of days.

We all know and cherish God’s amazing grace, but few of us know how to live in it. We go from “Amazing grace how sweet the sound,” to “Follow the rules and act like me.” This message of grace is hard for many to accept because it is a foreign teaching in the world in which we live. It cuts us to the core because we understand that we could never match it and we wonder why God would even go to the trouble.

When Christ was passing off the message of salvation through His body and blood, it didn’t make sense. Their worldly thoughts counter-balanced what Christ was actually teaching them. His was a message of grace and sacrifice. It was a calling to greater things that could only be achieved through the death He was willing to undergo. The meal He was offering wasn’t a worldly one for our mortal bodies. It was a divine gift meant to strengthen our Spiritual bodies. So great was his love that He was willing to give of Himself in the most intimate way, but their minds were not able to see the gift. They weren’t willing to hang around to hear the rest of the promise.

In Galatia, the young congregation bowed to false teachings that attempted to expand the Gospel message beyond the message of truth. Leaders were telling them that salvation could be found by following Jewish laws passed down from Moses about such things as circumcision, diet, food sacrificed to idols and observing Jewish Holy Days and festivals. They wanted to add to what they had been taught but they went beyond the message. The issue of requiring any law for salvation is contrary to the Christian faith. It deserts the grace that God freely gives.

When you move away from grace you create a different Gospel than what Jesus offers. This was a true threat to the church because the issue that was threatening the church was not just about salvation but also Christian living.

We’re still like that aren’t we? When the message is too hard to grasp in the short time we give it to make sense, we clasp onto other things we’re comfortable with and that we understand. We all understand legalism. If we do this then we get this.

Yet Christ’s message to us is deeper than that. It includes grace we can’t fully appreciate, a love we could never conceive, justification we would never give and salvation that seems too good to be true. It includes the unselfishness of the very Son of God to make things right where we could not. A hope that we could never feel we’ve earned and the promises of the Creator of the world that, despite our unworthiness, wants to share all He has with us, even calling us His children in the process.

Sometimes, we in the church are the greatest violators of this message of grace. Let’s say Roscoe comes to you and says that he is trying to read his Bible and become a better person so that God would forgive his sins. You tell Roscoe the Good News that Jesus died to save sinners. You share the incredible truth that we are saved by grace through faith, and Roscoe finally gets it and is saved.

Then, you tell Roscoe the bad news. The good news is that we are saved by grace alone, in Christ alone by Faith alone. But once you are saved it’s time to get busy because all “real” Christians are busy.

First you have to go to church every Sunday including Bible study. You have to be on some committee, try to pick one you’ll like but if you can’t, learn to like the one you pick. You’ll have to take Adult information classes as soon as possible and be involved in the churches outreach programs. If you can sing, then you simply have to be in the choir because if you don’t use your gift you’ll lose your gift.

After establishing all this you must establish your own personal worship and devotion regiment. Make sure to say your prayers every morning and every evening. Read the Bible every day, 3 chapters from the Old Testament and two from the New so you can finish in a year and then start over. In addition to this its best to start praying for 30 minutes every day in addition to your morning and evening prayers.

Now that you’re saved, Roscoe, you need to become a soul-winner because Christ said so in His great commission (Matthew 28 in case you’re wondering). Try to average one soul saved a month. Oh, and give 10% to the church, here are your tithing envelopes.

You see how we sometimes do the same things as the leaders in Galatia. We claim grace but then desert it. Would it be nice to do all the things I listed? Of course. But that’s not what saves you. Trying to be the perfect Christian doesn’t include works. Christ has already done all the work that needed to be done. The rest should be a by-product of the faith we have in Him.

You see, after all we’ve put poor Roscoe through, he’s experiencing a grace hemorrhage, but you don’t even notice the bleeding because you’re too busy trying to show God through works of your own. We’ve deserted God’s grace by trying to write His story over again into something we’re more comfortable reading.

The body and blood are still stumbling blocks for people today. This miracle of transformation from bread and wine to body and blood is too hard for many to fathom because they have changed God to be more like them and they, themselves, are incapable of doing such miracles. They have deserted the grace and written a Gospel they can better relate to.

All god-based religions claim their god is powerful, knowledgeable, immortal, transcendent, etc. While the one true God is certainly all of these, He chose to reveal His true essence at the cross. This was an expression of God’s inner most being. Yet people want to rewrite even this message. There are churches who refuse to show the cross in fear that it might offend someone. How sad it is that so many who believe they are Christians, reject so much about what makes Christianity, Christianity.

It is still all about Jesus. It is still about grace. No change we could ever make could overshadow this story of love shown by our mighty God in such an intimate way. No matter how many re-writes we make of the Gospel, the one truth will still remain that it is all about Christ.

Praise God that not all who receive God’s call, reject it. In our Gospel lesson Jesus asked His disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” And  Saint Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus has said his words are life and now Peter confesses that Jesus and Jesus alone has the words of life. There is nowhere else to go, no other Gospel to write. It’s still about Jesus. These are the words God uses to draw us to His Son. They are the words that the Holy Spirit uses to instill faith. They are the words the Holy Spirit uses to teach us the truth that Jesus Christ is both Lord and Christ. As Peter says, Jesus is the Holy One of God. Always has been and always will be, no matter how hard we try to shape Him into our image.

All four Gospels tell us that there was a time when Jesus’ followers got fewer and fewer. They couldn’t stomach the words so they deserted the grace. As the day of crucifixion grew closer Jesus made the cross clearer and the clearer it became the smaller the congregation became. At the end, even one of the twelve would forsake Him and the rest would scatter. On the cross, even His Father rejected Him as Jesus faced our sin and its punishment in utter loneliness. In this way, Jesus’ body hanging on the cross and His blood shed on the cross freed us from sin and eternal death.

Those who eat and drink His body and blood in truth – it is they who believe in our crucified Lord and Savior who will bring us to a glorious resurrection when He returns to raise His own to eternal life.

And all of this because of God’s own grace bestowed on those he loves, you and me. It is not something we can earn by being the perfect worker. It cannot be realized by rewriting the story. It is simply grace, something we have given that we had no hope to earn in our own. And Jesus is the bestower of that grace because it was He who was willing to pay the price for the penalty we had earned. Only by grace could we be saved and it is grace God freely gives. Do not desert this grace, claim it and cherish it for the great gift that it is because it is because of that grace that you have been saved. Amen.

 

Bible Study – John 6:51-69

 

How does this verse prepare the readers for the atonement received on the cross of Christ?
Do you think the Israelite leaders willfully misunderstood Jesus? What would be their purpose for doing this?
This passage was hard to swallow (no pun intended) for the listeners. Why do you think the literal meaning is not believed by so many, even today?
How does this section describing life that is found in Christ’s flesh compare to John 4:10-14?
Why didn’t Jesus use a softer technique in explaining this to them? Did He know some would find it too hard to believe if He explained it this starkly? Is that why He did it?
Why would Christ give us literal body blood over symbols of them?
Could these elements be described as food for the soul? If so, how so?
Explain verse 56. How does this Holy meal lead to us abiding in Christ? John 4:13-16, 15:4-5; 1 John 3:24
How is Jesus, the Bread of Life, different from the bread in the desert? Explain verse 58.
What does this tell us about what kind of faith saving faith is?
In what way does Jesus’ blood give eternal life?
What is Jesus saying in verse 62? Mark 16:19 Why does He bring this up?
Where was Jesus “before?” John 3:13, 17:5
How does the Spirit give life? 1 Corinthians 15:42-45; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
What good is our flesh? What can we do with it? How much salvation can we earn? Verse 63, John 3:6
Explain verse 65. Does granted mean called? John 6:44-45, 3:27
Why did the disciples turn back in verse 66? How does this compare to our generation?
Why did the Twelve believe when others who had followed Jesus up to this time did not?
Peter said, after being asked if he would leave also, “lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” What does he mean? John 1:14, 12:50, 17:7-8; Acts 5:20
Did Peter truly believe what he was saying in verses 68-69? John 18:15-18
What has this to do with God’s grace?
Was this a rejection of that grace?

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

Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

 

 

Define a “mature” believer. Would you consider yourself one? 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:13; Philippians3:15

Are “The rulers of this age” men or demonic powers? James 3:3-18

Why did the rulers of this age fail to recognize God’s wisdom?

Verse 6 implies an eternal wisdom. How would this compare to a finite wisdom?

Why or how does the wisdom of this age come to nothing?

Which one should the Christian strive for? Why?

In Verse 7, Paul speaks of “the hidden wisdom of God.” What is this hidden secret? 1 Peter 1:10-12

Has God’s secret plan now been revealed to everyone?

Why does true wisdom have to be “cross-centered?”

What point is Paul making by his quote from the Old Testament (Isaiah 64:4) in Verse 9? Isaiah 65:17: Ephesians 3:1-7; Revelation 21:1

What is Paul saying in verse 11? How does the spirit determine thoughts?

Philosophers were respected as people who could search out deep truths; in contrast, how does Paul say the truth of the Gospel is discovered? Verses 10-13 Why is this significant in its contrast?

From the references to “wisdom” in this passage, what differences do you see between human wisdom and God’s wisdom?

How does the Spirit of God instill in us the wisdom of God?

Why does God’s wisdom seem foolish to some? 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

How would you describe the “spirit” of the world? How is it opposed to the Spirit of God?

Why did Paul’s words here carry authority?

What do you think Paul means in Verse 16 when he says “we have the mind of Christ”? Is he saying that we are on the same mental level as God? Isaiah 40:13; Philippians 2:5-8

Does one have to be “spiritual” to be able to interpret spiritual things? Why or why not?

How does knowing you have the mind of Christ change your feelings about your own wisdom and actions?

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

“Christ Died for US”

 

Text:  John 15:1-17, Romans 5:1-11

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

Please pray with me…

In my time on earth, I have learned many valuable lessons. For instance, never touch a hot motorcycle muffler….learned that again last week. Always make sure you have your key with you before you lock your house…learned that again a few weeks ago. All of us are in a never ending cycle of learning.

One of the greatest things I have come to learn is that people are generally good. We listen to the news and we’re tempted to think that the devil’s winning, but all we need to do is look around to see that the vast majority of people still hold onto doing what is right, what is kind, what is useful and productive.

I think all of us can look back on our lives and see the many wonderful things our fellow humans have done for us. I, myself, have countless blessings received because of someone else. For instance, this church continues to impress me with how warm and welcoming they are to me and my family. Do you know I have been given two vehicles during my time here. Well, to be honest I did pay $1 for one of them, but I even had to force that on the person. When I am down you give me strength. When I am in need of expressing myself, you put up with it with a smile. When I need encouragement, you are only too happy to give it.

It is only natural, when thinking of such things, to think of all that God has given me. He has given me a wife who has been my best friend for almost 40 years. He has given me children who have become good people and kids any father would be proud to have. He has given me shelter, food,…..He has given me life. In fact, He’s given me so much it’s easy to take it for granted because of its enormity.

But of all the things I have been given in this life, there is one that is much greater than all of them. One gift that ranks above all others. A gift only a God sized love could give. A gift that is so vast that it cost the life of the greatest person who ever lived. That gift is salvation, won for us by the suffering and death of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

With the gift of salvation, we see many other gifts that are attached to it. There is the gift of grace because the gift was not deserved but given anyway. Attached is mercy for not receiving what we truly did deserve. Attached is justification for being made right when we had no hope of doing it on our own. Also attached is sanctification because this gift also brought with it holiness. And of course, with that gift came the added benefit of a loving relationship with the creator and redeemer of us all.

Yes, this gift ranks above all other gifts combined because it affords us everlasting life with the one true God free from the limitations, temptations and transgressions of the world.

And all of this was given out of divine goodness and mercy, not because of anything we had done, but because of what Christ did for us. For you and me, imperfect and limited as we are. Christ died for US because we needed Him to make things right by instilling His own righteousness upon us. Christ died for US because the perfect sacrifice was needed to take away the sins we, ourselves, had brought into the world. Christ died for US because, long before, a promise was made that had to be kept so that we might come from everlasting death in the torments of hell to everlasting life in the paradise of heaven.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…….God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for US. Since then we have been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11) 

The motto for our 500th anniversary celebration this year was, “It is still about Jesus.” A very appropriate and welcome reminder. We might have a tendency to get lost, even in our celebration and worship, but one thing we must never forget is that it’s still and will always be about Jesus Christ. He who died for US, so that we might live for Him.

Martin Luther, as you can imagine, spoke often about what Christ has done for us. In fact over 60 pages of quotes are of Christ in the book “What Luther Says.” One of my favorites concerning Christ and what He has done for us is this, Luther says, “Why does Christ suffer? He is a fine, good and fruitful tree and has not deserved so stern a sentence; but He suffers for our sake. He is now undertaking this journey in order to carry out His office of Priest; and he intends not only to pray for sinners but also to sacrifice His body and life on the altar of the cross so that God will be appeased through this sacrifice and poor sinners will be freed from the wrath of God and be heirs of eternal life. That is why it hurts the Lord to see that we weep at the sight of His suffering. He wants us to be glad, praise God, thank His grace, extol, glorify and confess Him; for through this journey we come into the possession of the grace of God. By it we have been freed from sin and death and we have become God’s dear children.”

Martin understood the enormity of the gift we have been given. He understood that Christ died for US not because He was obligated to or because He was simply following orders. Christ died for US not because He was looking for glory to be placed upon Him or because He wanted to make a name for Himself. Martin understood that Christ died for US because of a love we could never comprehend.

It was love that brought Him to be spit upon and whipped. It was love that held the cross as He dragged it to Calvary to be hung like a common criminal. It was love that drove the nails that would eventually cause His death. A God-sized love that no mere mortal could hope to give.

Think about it. God certainly doesn’t need us, but He wants us. His life would be so much easier, it would seem, if He didn’t have to deal with us, yet we bring Him joy. He loves us despite ourselves, not because He is forced to or because He is indebted to us somehow, but because He chose us from the very foundation of the world to be His own. Instead of being Christ’s regret, we are His bride. Instead of paying the price that we were due for our transgressions, He suffered so that our debt would be paid.

This is a love deeper than anything we could ever imagine, and He longs for each one of us to experience the fullness of that love every day of our lives. Christ died for US so that fullness could be both seen and felt.

God told His people through Jeremiah, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3) 

Every day of our lives God has worked to draw us to Him. From the beginning of our existence He has been pursuing a love relationship with us that will endure for all time.

It’s a kind of love that defies logic because it goes well beyond human love and human understanding. It’s a kind of love that would offer His own Son so that, by His death, we might be given everlasting life with Him. Did you catch that? God wants us to be with Him for all time. Talk about being beyond human logic.

And that same love He wants to give us in such great quantities that we have plenty to share with those around us.  From 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” All demonstrated in that Jesus died for US.

And this love that was demonstrated on Calvary’s cross is unchanging. Even as He disciplined His people for their sin, that same love reigned. Even as He watched those who cursed His Son, His love did not diminish. Even when His people lose their love for Him, His love for them never ends. That’s what Godly love is capable of.

This is the kind of love we are to strive for. The kind of love that would sacrifice their life for others. A kind of love that doesn’t change when we’ve been wronged. The kind of love that originates in God’s Son and is passed through to others, from of all that is good and right.

That is my wish for you. Paul describes it so eloquently in Ephesians 3, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Christ died for US to give us that fullness of God. Christ died for US so that we might gain His Godly strength through His mortal weakness. Christ died for US so that His power could rule in our lives to be renewed over and over again until that day we too will rise just like He did to be with our Heavenly Father.

Christ did not die in vain. He died for US so that we might experience more of Him. He died for US so that we might gain the greatest of all gifts. Now He asks you to give your life in return. Not to be sacrificed as His was, but to be a living sacrifice by serving those He loves. Let us follow His example by sharing the overabundance of love He has given us. All this is ours, because Christ died for US. Amen.

 

Bible Study: John 15:1-17

 

Who is the vine? Who is the vinedresser? Who is the branch? What is the duty of each?

What is the symbolic significance of the Vine imagery in the Old Testament? Deuteronomy 32:32-33; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 15:1-8; Hosea 10:1; Joel 1:7; Psalms 80:8-18

What is the fruit Jesus speaks of? Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:9-11

What happens to those that are not connected to the Vine? 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Who are those who have been thrown away? Matt. 3:12; 25:41-46; John 15:22-24; Jude 5-7

What does Jesus tell us His Father does with fruit-bearing branches? Why does He do this? Vs.2

How are we pruned? 2 Timothy 3:16 If pruning is good for the plant, why do we fear God’s “pruning?” Hebrews 12:3-11

What does God promise to all who are fruitful? Isaiah 27:6; Hosea 14:4-8

How do we remain in Christ and why do we remain in Christ? What is the Father’s objective in all this?

How does Jesus describe the love he has for His disciples in verse 9? How is the Father’s love connected to Jesus’ love?

How is the Father’s love connected to Jesus’ love? How is Jesus’ love tied to our love?

What does it mean to be a “friend” of Jesus? How could this be taken wrongly?

What is this mirror image supposed to tell us about Jesus’ love for his people, the love in which we are to abide?

How should we response to the Father’s love through Jesus? Verse 10

How do we remain in Christ’s love if we obey His commandments? Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Peter 4:8-10; Hebrews 11:6

Why do we remain in Christ’s love if we obey His commandments?

Do you think it is possible for someone to fulfill Christ’s commands in this passage apart from God’s power? Why or why not?

What are two reasons why our Lord Jesus commands us to render obedience to His commandments? Verse 11

What specific commandment does our Lord present to His disciples in verses 12-13? What is He really telling them about Himself?

What does this brotherly love look like if we pattern it after God’s love for us? Philippians 2:3-4; 1 John 3:16-18

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