Archive for the ‘2 Cor. 3:12-13; 4:1-6’ Category

Reflecting Jesus

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

  Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
“And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”(Mark 9:8)
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This morning, the Holy Spirit of the Lord comes to us in His transfigured glory!  He comes to us in His Word so that we will know true freedom and peace with God.  Through His Word, He wants to remove any obstacles that might prevent us from seeing Him as He is-a loving champion and Savior.  He is asking us to gaze deeply upon all of His glory and continue to be transformed into His very image.  In short, God wants to deepen His relationship of love with you so that when the storms of life come, and they will, you will see no one but Jesus only.  And He does this by leading you deeper and deeper into fellowship with Him; deeper than you ever imagined.  He wants to impact your life in such a way that you will never be the same again-so that you will never want to be the same again.  He wants to bring real change into your life; a change of heart and mind.  In other words, God wants you to see only Jesus!  When doubt creeps in, see only Jesus.  When your friends question your faith, see only Jesus.  And when you find it hard to see how God could forgive you, it is God’s will that you see only Jesus!  How?  Well let’s turn to our epistle lesson for some answers.  St. Paul says that we can experience this deep and abiding relationship with God by being bold!  When we focus our self- worth on who we are or what we do, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment, discouragement, and guilt.  Why?  Because on our own, we are not perfect…we will sin, and we will disappoint God and our neighbor.  This is the fate common to all of us.  By looking to only our own self righteousness God’s Law becomes a righteous hammer with only one thing in mind…DESTROY!  But when we find our self worth in what Jesus has done for us, when we focus on His grace, His self-sacrifice for us, then the accusations of the Law and our own inadequacies lose their power to intimidate us and cause fear.  With Jesus alone as our focus, then we can be bold!Friends, we who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism have already seen the full work of God’s Law in our lives…it is what drove you to the cross of Jesus Christ and His saving grace.  “You have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.  And the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you.” (Gal. 2:20).  You now find comfort in God’s Word that promises that He loves every man, woman, and child and that He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but instead it is His will that all would be saved and receive eternal life.  So when the devil whispers in your ear and attempts to introduce you once again to the terrors of God’s Law, you can say to Him, “Thank you Mr. Law for your work in my life, but you no longer terrify me.  You have already driven me to the cross and there I have found forgiveness and new life through my Savior Jesus Christ, and He alone is my Lord.  I shall live to please Him alone.  I no longer see your terrors, but instead I see Jesus only.”

Sadly, some remain in unbelief.  They remain captivated by the Law because they refuse to see God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ.  They can’t accept a reality that says God came to us in our own flesh to suffer and die, and conquer death for us.  They cannot receive the truth of God’s Law which says that their sins deserve punishment and death.  “I am a good person” they say.  “I try my best to please God.  Surely that must count for something?”  The unbeliever cannot see the need for God’s mercy because his vision has been obscured and his thinking is clouded by his own pride.  And so it was in Paul’s day.  That is why he wrote in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:3) that the gospel was veiled to those who are dying in their sins.  But why is it veiled?  Because the god of this world, the devil, has grabbed hold of the pride of the unbeliever and used it as a tool to blind their minds so that they will not see the glory of God-the light of the gospel which gives everyone the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the very image of God for us.

Do you understand the tragedy of the unbeliever?  Can you put yourself in their place and feel the hopelessness of this tragedy?  Many of you will answer yes to this question, but then do very little to help.  You know that right outside the doors of this sanctuary in our own community there are people dying without Jesus.  If you are honest with yourself, you have let many opportunities to witness God’s love to unbelievers pass you by.  In the past you’ve felt the working of God’s Spirit urging you to share your witness about Jesus love and forgiveness with them, but you found other things to be more pressing, more important.  Dear friends, I am not relating this to you in order to drive you back into the captivity of God’s Law, rather I am telling you this so that you will confidently go back to the same source of love and forgiveness that gave you life and hope so that you can go out to your unbelieving neighbor with the very same message.

For us to be bold once again in our relationship with God, we must go back to the Spirit of the Lord who constantly brings us freedom; freedom form guilt and the power to love God with all of our hearts and minds.  Isn’t it true that the same things that seem to prevent our unbelieving friends and family from receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior are the very same things that seem to get in the way with our relationship with God?  Don’t we, like our unbelieving neighbor tend to live our lives centered on our own accomplishments rather than what God is doing in us and through us?  Don’t we tend to care more about what others think about us instead of what God wants from us?  And what does God want from us?  God wants the very thing that His Holy Spirit gives to us-the ability to relate to God in love and not fear; the ability to love Him as He deserves to be loved, and the ability to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Friends, do you want to experience God’s love and peace more deeply?  Then learn to trust in the completed work of God through Jesus Christ.  It is that work which first saved you and it is His work that continually changes you and keeps you secure in a relationship of love and forgiveness with Him.

Do you want boldness in your life?  Do you want to have God’s vision for you come alive? Do you want the ability to be an effective witness to Jesus Christ?  If so, then you must stay connected to Him through His Word, prayer, and service.  Now being in His Word is kind of a no brainer.  You’re in His Word right now at Divine Worship.  Each time you gather for the preaching and teaching of His Word you are hearing God speak to you in a very intimate fashion.  Each time you confess your sins and hear your pastor pronounce the absolution, God is speaking directly to your heart, and he is reminding you of the time in your life when the water and His Word were combined at your baptism so that you could have confidence that because of Jesus Christ all of your sins have been forgiven.  And each time you gather at His Holy table you are fed in a miraculous way.  Somehow His Word joins with the bread and wine and it becomes also the very body and blood of your Savior.  And at this meal, God not only calls you to eat and drink, but also to see, smell, and touch His forgiveness of all of your sins!  Now for some this may seem like enough to carry you through the week, but dear friends, God wants to give you so much more exposure to His Word!  He wants you to read His Word every day, even for just 5 minutes of your time, and then simply meditate on it-think about what you have just read.  Why?  Because dear friends, faith comes by hearing the Word of God…the message of Jesus Christ!  Do you want to be bold in your faith?  Then stay in the Word! 

But God does not just leave it there.  He does not want a one way relationship where He talks and you listen; He wants you to talk to Him!  He wants to hear what you are thankful for; He wants to hear what makes you afraid; He wants you to tell Him what tempts you to sin and He wants to know what worries you.  He wants to know what makes you angry and He wants to know what makes you glad.  He wants you to tell Him what you need and what you want.  And all of this is done in a miraculous conversation with God, a conversation called prayer.  St. James said that you have not because you ask not!  How much difficulty do we have in our lives simply because we have discounted the miraculous; simply because we have excluded God!  Oh dear friends, pray away…pray away and pour out your heart to your heavenly father.  You can be bold in prayer because Jesus promised you that His Holy Spirit is with you making sure that you know that every Word you speak in prayer is precious to your Heavenly Father.

I want to close with one last way that God strengthens His relationship with you and draws you even deeper into His heart, and that is your service to Him and your neighbor.  Now certainly there is enough work at Trinity to keep even the most eager busy for a life time.  God is not asking you to do it all; no instead he is asking you to look around this house of worship and find one or two ways, one or two ministries that you can join or start in order to serve Him.  He is asking you also to pitch in and keep His house clean and in working order.  He is asking you to grow in your relationship of love with Him and then simply share your experiences with your neighbor.  Go where God leads you and simply be prepared to always give a witness to your neighbor about what God means to you.  Be prepared to share with anyone God puts in your way, what having a Savior who calls you by name means to you.  Be prepared to be the love of Christ in the life of a person who may no nothing at all about forgiveness and unconditional love.

Now I know this might sound strange to some here this morning, but when we get involved with serving God and our neighbor, something wonderful happens, something we may never have prepared for; He allows you to go even deeper in experiencing His love!  Don’t ask me to explain how this is; because I don’t know the answer, I only know that it is true.  Friends, His Word promises that you too will experience the very same thing: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Just like the morning rain opens the petals of a rose, so God desires to abide in you with His glory and transform you!

Can simply hearing and believing God’s Word really change you?  Can a conversation with God and service to Him and our neighbor really do all of this?  Yes, because each time we enter into these specific callings in life, God allows us to see more and more of His glory.  And each time we are allowed to see more of God’s glory active in our lives, we begin to realize that we no longer are captivated by things like worry and fear, want or need, instead we begin to look around and realize that all we see is Jesus.  And when all that we see is Jesus and His incredible love for us, then we can truly begin to reflect Jesus and His glory in all that we say and all that we do!  May God grant this truth be realized in each of our lives…in Jesus name…AMEN!