Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 23:16-29’ Category

Baptism by Fire!

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 15, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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This morning God’s is speaking a very personal message to us; He is speaking to us about the cross of Jesus Christ!  It’s the same cross that has brought us peace, love, and happiness from God; but it will also bring us rejection, pain, and suffering!  It is a cross that demonstrates the passion of God for sinners and the walk of faith for those who are forgiven!  Through the cross God is saying that no matter where your heart is right now; no matter what you have done or will do, God loves you and wants you to turn away from your sins and turn to Jesus Christ alone to receive the pardon and forgiveness that He bought for you upon that cross.

This morning, God is telling you… listen now, don’t worry about what He is telling others, because He is talking to you right now; this morning God is telling you to turn away from the sin that has caught you and turn to the cross of Jesus.  He wants you to know that it really is that simple.  There is nothing more you need to do than to admit that what you are doing right now is sinful and that you need his forgiveness and real presence in your life.  He wants you to admit that on your own you are helpless to defeat that sinful nature.  He wants you to admit that you need Him more than you need the approval and love of anyone or anything in this world!

For many, and I trust for you as well, this is good news!  But to many more, this message is a threat to their way of life and their very happiness and existence.  You see many in this world only want to live for themselves; they seek glory and honor for their own lives and not for the God who created them.  They only want to silence the message of the cross, because the cross says that they must change.  The cross says that they must die daily to their sinful desires, and then live to give God glory!  They hate this message, because if it is true, it means that they are wrong; they’re life style is wrong.  So what are they to do?  Well, they’ve created a new message; a message of self-realization and fulfillment.  They’ve create a new theology… a theology of glory!

This morning dear friends, God is speaking to all of us and He warns us from our Old Testament reading to avoid these false teachers.  He says, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.  They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.  They say continually to those who despise the Word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” [Jeremiah 23:16-17] 

This morning God is warning us to avoid these false teachers; He is saying that He sees and knows what they are doing and they will be punished.  He asks us, “Am I a God at hand (only) and not a God far away?  Can (any) man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?” [Jer. 23:23]  “Isn’t my Word like fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” [Jer. 23:29]

This morning dear friends, God is speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what He’s saying to your family, your neighbor, our nation, or the world, but know this, He is speaking to you.  He wants you to know that in the past He spoke through a nation, the people of Israel.  He called them to be a light unto the unbelieving world.  They were sent to call all nations unto repentance.  But they rebelled, which led to their rejection.  But now, God raised up a new nation.  A nation that relates to Him by faith in spirit and in truth!  God raised you up!  How did He raise you?  Through the cross of Jesus Christ!

This morning friends, God is speaking to you.  He is asking you to turn away from your sins and then turn to the cross of Jesus Christ so that you will know that you are saved.  Do you believe this Word from God?  Good, then live it out!  How?  By being His witness and ambassador of hope and love in a dying world.  Speak the truth, God’s truth, but speak it in love!

This morning, God is asking you to trust Him and follow Him.  “But follow Him where” we ask?  Follow Him to the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is the cross that Jesus had in mind when He said, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!” [Luke 12:49-51]

Dear friends, when our Lord spoke those words He was thinking about you; he was thinking about today!  When He spoke those words he knew that once He was crucified upon His cross it would set the world on fire.  He knew that people would know once and for all that there was no other way, no other religion that would please God except the true religion; the religion of personal faith that comes to us only through the cross of Jesus Christ.  He knew that this message of the cross would bring both peace and hatred.  He knew that through His death on the cross, those who received His gift of passion, suffering, and death would receive eternal peace with God.  But He also knew that those who related to Him by faith in this gift of the cross would be the targets of scorn and hatred throughout the world!   

This morning dear friends, Jesus speaks to us from His cross and He says follow me.  Suffer with me and do not lose hope.  But following Jesus to the cross is hard; it’s hard because we know it will bring division and suffering.  We know that we will be ridiculed and looked down upon, because we know that we will not only have to live a life of repentance and forgiveness, but we will have to speak this message to others; we will have to speak it to the theologians of glory!

This morning, Jesus warns us not to follow these theologians of glory.  He warns us that the time of judgment is coming for all of those who call evil good and good evil.  Listen to what He says:  “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’ And so it happens.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘(It’s going to be a scorcher)’ and it happens.  You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” 

“But Lord” we counter, “it’s just that I am afraid!  I’m afraid of the way people will treat me if I speak up!”  And to this God says, “Oh?  Are you more afraid of their judgment than mine?  Would you rather have your friends say, ‘away from me, I never knew you’ or me?”

Dear friends, this morning Jesus is showing each of us that we have all the proof we need to trust in Him and follow Him.  He is warning us not to be like the theologians of glory who certainly know how to test the weather and many other things but ignore the spiritual signs that God has provided to make us wise unto salvation.  This morning Jesus says that we must first remember that all of His Word is true and it will never be less true.  Remember the great work that He did for you upon the cross and then remember the very personal work He did for you within the waters of your own baptism.  Remember the consistent teaching of the church about sin, repentance, and forgiveness.  And when you remember, remember also that God is not a man that He should change His mind.  What was sin then is sin today.  Do not call good what God has called evil.  Remember that you have been called out of this evil world to relate to God by faith and grace, because of the truth of His Holy Word which has shown you your Savior Jesus Christ and His cross!  So live out this life under the cross.  Call sin what it is, without fear.  This is your baptism by fire.  The fire that first kindled in your Savior’s heart has now been poured out on you.  It is the power of the Holy Spirit which changes you and sends you to speak the very same message to other sinners who are not yet relating to God under the cross.

Dear friends, this morning God wants you to have the heart and mind of your Savior Jesus Christ.  He wants you to see how tragic it is that men and women today can predict the movement and growth of stars, split the atom, and even put men out in space, but they are blind to God’s will.  They know how to satisfy their self-serving desires but they refuse to know the will and love of God.  They know how to get to space, but they refuse to know how to get to heaven!  Our educated world and its theology of glory has a lot of knowledge about science and sociology but very little divine and spiritual wisdom. 

This morning dear friends, God is sending you out into this unfriendly world to speak this wisdom.  But He is also sending you out with this reminder of His love for you: His baptism of fire began the day he entered the Jordan river and allowed John to baptize Him.  When He went into those waters He had no need for a baptism and forgiveness of sins; but He went in for you!  When He came out of those waters he willingly took upon Himself the sins of the world, even your sins.  He did it to prove to the world and to you that He took upon His own body the entire load of guilt that you should answer for.  But then He also took them to the cross and by His suffering and death he removed the guilt of the world; He removed your guilt.  In your baptism He has soaked you with this same fire.  Now He asks you to live out this fire by speaking this message of the cross to a world full of self-serving sinners.  Why?  So that some might be saved; so that they too might know and be changed by His baptism of fire!  I pray you will do this very thing, and I ask this in Jesus name.  AMEN!