Archive for the ‘Ephesians 1:3-14’ Category

Victory in Rejection

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Pentecost 8B
July 15, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“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.” [Ephesians 1:3, 4]

Did you hear that good news!  You dear saints who have gathered here at Trinity Lutheran Church around God’s Word and Sacraments are blessed!  In Christ, or because of Christ you have every spiritual blessing; you have everything that you could ever need to keep you in God’s forgiving and blessing love.  But there is a condition.  You must remain in Him!  In whom?  In the Father’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  How?  By staying in His Word and agreeing with Him in His Word.  What Word is that?  All of it of course, but especially this one simple word… REPENT!

What does repent mean?  

It means turning to God and agreeing with Him.  It means admitting that God is right and you and this whole sinful world are wrong.  It means turning in agreement to God and facing your only hope… Jesus Christ.  Jesus is either your Savior or your judge, and which one He is for you hinges on your repentance or your lack of repentance.  

So the good news, the spreading of the gospel is always flowing from the church’s message of repentance.  That doesn’t sound like a very effective evangelism or outreach program does it?  And because that message is so simple and so abrasive to many, an untold number of books have been written to help the “church” develop an improved outreach program.  Now don’t get me wrong, social programs and strategies that will help make the church active in improving our community are important; they’re important if a congregation wants to be relevant in the eyes of a dying world, but they are not evangelism.  So then, what is?  Well it’s the preaching and sharing of that simple message… repent!  Turn to Jesus and be saved.  Agree with God that you are a sinner and then receive His forgiveness.

As a congregation, we can’t ignore the message of  repentance simply because many feel it’s offensive or divisive.  We can’t water down that Word and replace it with something else that’s more inclusive and attractive.  If we begin to turn away from the message of repentance and water down God’s Word, we will also be separating ourselves from God’s grace; from His forgiving love.  If we cease to speak God’s message of repentance, we will no longer be counting on God’s power and presence to preserve us as a church, but instead we will be trusting in our own resourcefulness.  And if we do that, we will very soon discover how limited our ability really is.  

The truth is, if we choose to agree with the world and not God, we have failed.  But if we fail we can be saved by hearing that same message we had refused to speak… Repent! And when we repent, we will always discover that God’s grace is sufficient for us.  We discover that it’s ok to fail, as long as we keep turning to God in agreement, saying that He is right and we are wrong; that He alone is righteous and we are sinful.  We need Him always and He is with us all the time.

If you recall, last week in our gospel lesson, Jesus sent out His disciples in His own authority.  It was an authority that backed a message, a message that was full of power; power that would never run out, but authority and power that could be rejected.  One simple Word brought the kingdom of God to sinful men and women… repent, and one simple word could refuse God’s forgiveness… NO!

If this Word of repentance was received, those who did not reject it would know God’s forgiving love, but if it was rejected, well then they would be condemned in their sins.  This was a message that was entirely between the  person listening and God.  If it was rejected, they weren’t rejecting the messenger, they were rejecting their God.  

And this was exactly the position that Amos found himself in, in our Old Testament lesson.  

God sent Amos to preach repentance; and God’s message alone is what was rejected, not Amos the messenger.  The fact that the King and Amaziah the priest rejected Amos’ proclamation of repentance was ultimately not Amos’ problem.  Amos was free to live his life as he saw fit.  He could return to tending his sycamore figs and the care of his sheep, just as the disciples of Jesus when they went out and were rejected were free to shake the dust from their feet.

But Amos didn’t go back to his old way of living and the disciples of Jesus didn’t quit going out proclaiming the good news after shaking the dust off of their feet in one village.  They continued to agree with God and speak God’s plan of salvation!  God’s call to repentance remained as valid to them as it ever was.

God’s plan, the only way to eternal life will always be contemporary and relevant because we will always be sinners who need Him.   God will always be the One with the authority and power to send His disciples to preach, teach, and confess His message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, Who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

It is Jesus alone who chose us… destined us in love… bestowed on us, lavished upon us, and made known to us the forgiving love of God.  In other words, Jesus alone does all of this for us.  He gives us the gift to fail and then hear God’s Word again as His only means of correction and assurance of forgiveness.  This gift of freedom of both failure and forgiveness depends entirely on Him who first chose us.  His authority is always a resource that never fails. 

This morning, God is asking us to trust in Him alone.  

Amos did, and some sinners heard and were saved.  John the Baptist did, even when he knew that it would cost him his life, and the result was the preparation for ministry of some of Jesus first and greatest disciples .  And we can do it too, if we remember that the entire evangelism process is something that is completely in the hands of the One and only One with Authority.  Jesus alone does the choosing, the empowering, the granting of authority, and the uniting of all things in Him, at the fullness of time!

So now, you may be feeling ready to go out and share your witness and tell your neighbor about God’s forgiving love through His Son Jesus Christ.  You may be ready to see our little congregation grow and grow with other forgiven sinners just like you, and you may be thinking, “So how will we plan for this outreach program, and how can we motivate others to get involved.  And to that God is responding to all of us: Don’t you see how quickly you fell back on yourselves as a resource?  Do you really think that it is your job to motivate others to get involved in building My Kingdom?  Repent!

What is in this little word of repentance? Well everything. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the very “message of our salvation.” “The gospel” defines “the Word,” and “our salvation” describes “the truth” of that Word. The Word which deals with the truth, the gospel is that message of Christ’s cross, which saves us from our sins. The Word is, indeed, “the glad message” that has reached our ears through the grace of God. That message says turn from your sins by turning to Christ’s cross where those sins are forever removed from you. It is a message that actually gives you both the power and ability to repent. In the cross of Jesus we have a “Savior” who is able “to save” the world completely. And in the Holy waters of your Baptism, this message of salvation was made entirely yours by the power of the Holy Spirit, for “In connection with Christ you were sealed with the Spirit through the promise of God almighty.”

The truth is that the One with Authority who was able to motivate a country shepherd to confront a corrupt and powerful religious government is still working among us today. And the One who was able to collect and send out a sorry bunch of disciples is able to give us every spiritual blessing that we will need to leave this place of worship and go out into our community, our jobs, our neighborhoods, and even our families and use us to accomplish His perfect will in accordance to His own way and time; He alone will use us “for the praise of His glory.”

Now that may not be the message that you wanted to hear.  No one wants to hear that our mission may seem like a failure and that many will reject the message that we are sent out with.  But remember, there are untold spiritual blessings ahead for those who simply trust and follow Jesus.  And it is my prayer, that as you are being obedient to God’s authority and direction you will share His message with whoever will listen. It is also my prayer that as a result of your obedience to His Word of repentance you will invite them to gather here at Trinity Lutheran Church with us, and that will be how we will begin to see the Word of God grow in our presence.  I ask this in Jesus name…  AMEN!  

Victory in Rejection

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Seventh Sunday in Pentecost B, July 15, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

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. [Ephesians  1:3, 4]

Did you hear that good news!  You dear saints who have gathered here at Trinity Lutheran Church around God’s Word and Sacraments  are blessed!  In Christ, or because of Christ you have every spiritual blessing; you have everything that you could ever need to keep  you in God’s forgiving and blessing love.  But there is a condition.  You must remain in Him!  In whom?  In the Father’s beloved Son,  Jesus Christ.  How?  By staying in His Word and agreeing with Him in His Word.  What Word is that?  All of it of course, but especially  this one simple word… REPENT!

What does repent mean?  It means turning to God and agreeing with Him.  It means admitting that God is right and you and this whole  sinful world are wrong.  It means turning in agreement to God and facing your only hope… Jesus Christ.  Jesus is either your Savior or  your judge, and which one He is for you hinges on your repentance or your lack of repentance.

So the good news, the spreading of the gospel is always flowing from the church’s message of repentance.  That doesn’t sound like a very effective evangelism or outreach program does it?  And because that message is so simple and so abrasive to many, an untold array of books have been written to help the “church” develop an improved outreach program.  Now don’t get me wrong, social programs and strategies that will help make the church active in improving our community are important; they’re important if a congregation wants to be relevant in the eyes of a dying world, but they are not evangelism.  What is?  The preaching and sharing of that simple message… repent!  Turn to Jesus and be saved.  Agree with God that you are a sinner and receive His forgiveness.

As a congregation, we can’t ignore the message of  repentance simply because many feel it’s offensive or divisive.  We can’t water down that Word and replace it with something else that’s more inclusive and attractive.  When we begin to turn away from the message of repentance and water down God’s Word, we will also be separating ourselves from God’s grace; from His forgiving love.  When we cease speaking God’s message, we are no longer counting on God’s power and presence to preserve us a church, but instead we are trusting in our own resourcefulness.  And if we do that, we will very soon discover how limited our ability really is.

If we choose to agree with the world and not God, we have failed.  But if we fail we can be saved by hearing the same message we refused to speak… Repent! And when we repent, we always discover that God’s grace is sufficient for us.  We discover that it’s ok to fail, as long as we keep turning to God in agreement that He is right and we are wrong; that He alone is righteous and we are sinful.  We need Him always and He is with us always.

If you recall, last week in our gospel lesson, Jesus sent out His disciples in His own authority.  It was an authority that backed a message that was full of power; power that would never run out, but authority and power that could be rejected.  One simple Word brought the kingdom of God to sinful men and women… repent, and one simple word could refuse God’s forgiveness… NO!

If this Word of repentance was received, those who did not reject it would know God’s forgiving love, but if it was rejected, well then they would be condemned in their sins.  This was a message that was entirely between the  person listening and God.  If it was rejected, they weren’t rejecting the messenger, they were rejecting their God.

And this was exactly the predicament that Amos found himself in, in our Old Testament lesson.  God sent Amos to preach repentance; and God’s message alone is what was rejected, not Amos the messenger.  The fact that the king and Amaziah rejected Amos’ proclamation of repentance is ultimately not Amos’ problem.  Amos was free to live his life as he saw fit.  He could return to tending his sycamore figs and the care of his sheep.  Just as the disciples of Jesus when they went out and were rejected were free to shake the dust from their feet.

But Amos didn’t go back to his old way of living and the disciple of Jesus didn’t quit going out proclaiming the good news after shaking the dust off of their feet in one village.  They continued to agree with God and speak God’s plan of salvation!  God’s call to repentance remained as valid to them as it ever was.

God’s plan, the only way to eternal life will always be contemporary and relevant because we will always be sinners without Him.   God will always be the One with the authority and power who authorizes His disciples to preach, teach, and confess His message of repentance and forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

It is Jesus alone who chose us… destined us in love… bestowed on us, lavished upon us, and made known to us the forgiving love of God.  In other words, Jesus alone does all of this for us.  He gives us the gift to fail and then hear God’s Word, His only means of correction and assurance of forgiveness.  This gift of freedom of both failure and forgiveness depends entirely on Him who first chose us.  His authority is always a resource that never fails.

This morning, God is asking us to trust in Him alone.  Amos did, and some sinners heard and were saved.  John the Baptist did, even when he knew that it would cost him his life, and the result was the preparation for ministry of some of Jesus first and greatest disciples .  And we can do it too if we remember that the entire evangelism process is something that is completely in the hands of the One and only One with Authority.  Jesus alone does the choosing, the empowering, the granting of authority, and the uniting of all things in Him, at the fullness of time!

So now, you may be feeling ready to go out and share your witness and tell your neighbor about God’s forgiving love through His Son Jesus Christ.  You may be ready to see our little congregation grow and grow with other forgiven sinners just like you, and you may be thinking, “So how will we plan for this outreach program, and how can we motivate others to get involved.  And to that God is responding to all of us: ‘Don’t you see how quickly you fell back on yourselves as a resource?  Do you really think that it is your job to motivate others to get involved in building My Kingdom?  Repent!’

The truth is that the One with Authority who was able to motivate a country shepherd to confront a corrupt and powerful religious government and the One who was able to collect and send out a sorry bunch of disciples who were mostly fishermen and day laborers is able to give us every spiritual blessing that we will need to leave this place of worship and go out into our community, our jobs, our neighborhoods, and even our families and use us to accomplish His perfect will in accordance to His own way and at His own time; He alone will use us “for the praise of His glory.”

Now that may not be the message that you wanted to hear.  No one wants to hear that our mission may seem like a failure and that many will reject the message that we are sent out with.  But remember, there are untold spiritual blessings ahead for those simply trust and follow Jesus.  And it is my prayer, that as you are being obedient to God’s authority and direction you will share the message with whoever will listen, and as a result of your obedience we will begin to see many more gather here around His Word and Sacraments at Trinity Lutheran Church.  I ask this in Jesus name…  AMEN!

God Never Fails!

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

6th Sunday of Pentecost, July 12, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audil of this message

NOTE: This message was delivered in a community park at an outdoor gospel sevice and picinic.

INTRODUCTION:  Here is an eternal truth: God’s love for sinful man will never fail.  God never fails to love.  There was once a claim made by a company that made ice boxes for the home that “Ice will never fail.”  These simple words became the preferred advertising slogan throughout the 40’s and 50’s.  With great confidence they proclaimed that “You will always be able to count on ice.  Ice will never fail to be the preferred method to preserve your food, or to cool your drinks.”

So how did they do?  Well many still call that big metal box in their kitchen the ice box, but the truth is, ice hasn’t been used to preserve food since the late 1950’s when a simple gas called Freon was discovered to be a cheap and practical means of cooling and keeping cooled any thing that came in contact with it.  Today, we are still being continuously bombarded with adds like that; adds, which tell us that if we use a specific product, it is sure to meet our needs.  It will make us more fragrant, more confident, or more acceptable.  

 

I remember watching a martial arts competition one night with great expectations of a great match.  The media hype promised that it would be the fight of the century.  The challenger was expected to give the champion the fight of his career.  The fight ended about 30 seconds after it started with the champion still the champion.  When I looked at the challenger knocked out cold on the floor I began to laugh.  I wasn’t laughing at his injured condition, but what his boxing trunks said, “Everlast!”

 

In this journey we call life, we discover again, and again, despite all of the advertising hype that ice does fail.  The things that we call everlasting seem to be continually knocked out by things that are temporary.   Even old time tested friends and close family can and do fail us.  Eventually everything will fail us except God, who isn’t a thing at all, but rather He is the eternal source of love who chose us in Jesus Christ even before the world and all creation came to be.  He is everlasting!  You can always be sure of Him.  God never fails!   All around us, God has ensured that we continually receive His message to repent, turn away from our sins and trust in His means of restoring our broken lives; lives that have been ravage by sin. 

 

Maybe some here this morning find something familiar with King Herod, in our gospel reading.  Maybe you too have always found the Word of God fascinating but not captivating.  All of your life you’ve heard the truth of Jesus Christ proclaimed in the words of Christians, powerful truth, but not your truth.  Maybe you’ve gone to church, even tried to read the Bible on numerous occasions only to lock it away in a drawer, much like Herod locked away the prophet of God, John the Baptist.  Listen friend, you are not hearing my words by accident.  God, your creator has a purpose for your life and He wants to change you forever, but before He will work within you, you must pause long enough to hear His Word, and then let that Word change you.  Friends, please don’t turn away from this request; this might be your last opportunity to hear Him speak and receive His gift of new life and forgiveness.  You see, God doesn’t want you to be like King Herod, pronouncing a death sentence upon His Word, because you see that sentence would not be on God’s Word but upon your very salvation.  Friends, it is God’s desire to work right now within all of us.  Whether you are hearing and responding to His Word for the very first time or you have been walking with Him your whole life, He wants you to receive His Work of forgiveness and love within your heart.

 

I. God the Father.  Dear friends, God the Father has chosen you before the beginning of time not because He found anything good in you but because in His very nature He is love—He doesn’t want anyone to die outside of His love, but instead He wants everyone to turn away from their sins and receive His forgiveness, love, and eternal life.  He wants you to walk with Him in peace and love forever.  You see friends, your very salvation is founded upon the Love of God the Father; a love so strong that even “the gates of hell” have no power to defeat it and separate you from His love and His gift of salvation.

 

Within this truth there is wonderful comfort.  You see it is God who is right now working in your heart and life; He is the one who changes your heart.  Right now he is moving your heart to desire His righteous and holy presence in your life.  He wants you to consider your own salvation as the most important possession that you could ever have.  In or Epistle reading we’ve learned that God preordained your salvation before time began so that you will continue to respond to His offer of forgiveness and eternal life.  You see, He has already decided how He would bring you to salvation and He has worked to ensure that you don’t lose it.  In essence, He has secured your very salvation so completely, that not even your own weakness or sinfulness could cause it to slip through your fingers; in fact, not even the devil himself can snatch this gift away from you.  His gift of salvation can’t fail or be overthrown.  So that you can have complete confidence in this truth, He has placed it into the almighty hands of our Savior Jesus Christ for safe keeping!

 

II. God the Son.  While salvation comes from the very heart and love of God the Father, the truth that it is YOUR salvation is provided through the life, death, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ!  Through the entire work of Jesus Christ, God’s wonderful gift of grace, that is His unearned love, pardon, and forgiveness has become entirely yours.  This means that you actually possess every spiritual gift that God has provided for you through the work of Jesus Christ.  Where you were once held hostage by sin, that is because of your sins you were destined to spend the rest of eternity separated from God in hell, Jesus has in a very real sense paid the ransom price for you!  Through His life giving blood, shed for you upon the cross you have been freed.  Through this truth we can all be assured that Jesus suffered and died for the entire world.  Everyone has been redeemed through Jesus Christ, who through His innocent obedience, suffering, and death has given us everything we need to stand before God and be assured of His gift of eternal life.  This gift of salvation is offered to you friends freely through God’s Word and sacraments.  It is no longer hidden away like some great mystery, but instead it is now readily revealed to us through these means. 

 

Dear friends, it is God’s desire that His Word and sacraments will truly save us, so He asks us to gladly hear His Word when it is preached, read, and meditated on.  In this way He works to change our hearts so that we will turn away from our many sins and turn to His work through Jesus Christ alone.  And so that you can be confident that this promise is for you, God sends to you the person and the work of His Holy Spirit. 

 

III. God the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit, we are given another wonderful gift… the gift of faith.  Through faith, we believe and find hope alone in what Jesus Christ has done for us upon the cross.  Through faith our hearts are moved to turn away from our many sins and accept Jesus as our Savior, friend, and Lord.  Through faith, we believe and receive the work of the Holy Spirit who is working in our lives to do good; that is He moves our hearts to willingly offer to God our lives as living sacrifices to Him so that His will and work in our lives will be done.  Through our time, talent, treasures, and finances God continues to work in us and through us.  He is working His life changing love in our lives so that others will see His work within us and give glory to God!  In other words, God wants others to be amazed at the change He has worked and is working through our simple lives. 

 

Through the work of the Holy Spirit we know by faith that God is working daily to protect us from our great weaknesses against the devil, the sinful world, and even against our own sinful flesh, so that He can guide and lead us in His ways.  Through the Holy Spirit’s work within us we know by faith, that even when we fall, that is when we sin, He will be right there to lift us up again to comfort, encourage, and keep us safe.   Through trials and temptations, in sickness and hard times, we know by faith that God shall never leave us or forsake us!  We know that He is always working within us to strengthen and increase in us good works that please Him.  How can we know this?  Because God has told us that it is He who began this good work in us who will complete it through Jesus Christ.

 

CONCLUSION: I remember years ago, my son Tommy and I were looking up in the night sky for one of the many space shuttles that had just been launched and was now in orbit.  As my son was scanning the darkness he pointed his little finger at what he thought was the shuttle.  “No, son that one has been up there all along.” I said.  Looking back on that night, what I was really telling my son was that in a time when the sky seems filled with satellites and space shuttles; a time when many things go up and come back down, there are still stars in the sky that have been up there all along.

 

Dear friends, our Christian faith gives us assurance like that.  God’s love is like a star.  We reach out toward it many times even though we can’t touch it, with the knowledge that God’s love has been there all along.  Isn’t it comforting to know that no matter how much things change God and His love for us never will!  

 

Explanation of Reconciliation: Dear friends, perhaps this message has reached you in a way that causes your heart to hope that this good news is true, and that it is for you.  If so friends, don’t let your hearts be troubled, trust in God’s Word.  God in His mercy and love wants you to receive His wonderful gift of salvation right now.  And to do this, you simply tell Him that you need it.  Together we will all confess our sinfulness to God and ask for His forgiveness. 

 

The Prayer of a Sinner: Merciful God, I confess to you that I am by my very nature sinful and unclean.  I have sinned against You in my thoughts and in my actions.  I have also sinned against You by the things I have done and the things I have failed to do.  I have not loved You with my whole heart and that I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  I confess that I justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment for my sins.  For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.  Forgive me, renew me, and lead me, so that I may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways so that through my life I may glorify Your name.  AMEN!

 

Absolution: In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given by the Father to die for you, and for His sake God forgives you all of your sins.  To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and He gives to them the Holy Spirit.  Salvation is yours!  May the Lord who has begun this good work within you, bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ our Lord…AMEN!