Archive for the ‘Pentecost 14B’ Category

Let God Dress You!


Sunday, August 30th, 2015

14th Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm!” [Ephesians 6:13]

The audio you’ve just heard will act as our mental hook to hang our message on; it is from the 1993 hit by Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down!”

There is a battle raging all around us; it is unseen but certainly not unfelt.  It is the classic battle of good vs. evil.  In this battle, God is protecting what is His.  He is protecting those little lambs of Jesus—those little lambs that He suffered and died for.  God is protecting you and me from Satan and the devils who are following a very simple game plan… they want you to back down from the Word and promises of God!  What we must remember though is that devils are evil cowards; they know that ultimately they have been beaten by the cross of Jesus Christ, so their goal is to take as many people as they can down with them into the dark and evil abyss for eternity.

Dear friends, the best target for devils to attack is an easy target… an unprotected target.  So they will quickly attack someone who is not centered in the grace of Jesus Christ…someone who is counting on something else for their protection other than the whole armor of God!

So this morning, as with every Lord’s Day, Christ through His Divine Service wants to dress you for action, so you won’t back down; so you will be able to withstand the enemy!

Evil is all around us. It is the unseen force that the devil uses to separate us from the Love of God, which is ours in and through Christ Jesus.  It is a spiritual force, an army if you will, that is well organized under the leadership of the devil.

A. St. Paul in our Epistle reading (Ephesians 6:10-20) breaks down this spiritual army of darkness into 4 divisions: Rulers, Authorities, Cosmic Powers, and Spiritual Forces of Evil.

If we were to put this in contemporary warfare terms we would say the Ruler is Satan Himself, and his Joint Chief of Staff or his generals are the Authorities, the Cosmic Powers would be those who control the Spiritual Weapons of Mass Destruction (culture norms that undermine the law of God), and the Spiritual Forces of Evil would be his foot soldiers.  Their concentrated goal is to ensure that we are so overcome with evil that we will simply surrender our lives to them and hope for the best.  In other words, their attacks are meant to “shock and awe” us to the point that individual Christians and the church at large become demoralized and back down!  Back down from what?  From the inerrant Word of God; from the truth that God is always right and that sinful men cannot be right without God’s will and guidance.

B. This battle isn’t something that is distant and doesn’t merit your immediate concern.  It is much closer than you think.  It is raging all around you.  Just watch the news on any given night and see how our community, our nation and our world are being divided and overrun by violence, crime, and hatred.  In fact, the enemy is so close that he is even battling within you!  But don’t take my word for it, listen to our Savior’s own Words found in our gospel lesson (Mark 7:14–23): “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these things come from within, and they defile a person.”  There you have it friends—the battle is not so distant after all, is it?

C. “Yes Pastor, but God’s Word says that I am saved…I am baptized!” Very good!  You see God’s work for what it is, a work of love and protection from anything that separates us from the love of God, which is ours through Christ Jesus!  Indeed you are right that your baptism is God’s assurance that He will never leave or forsake you.  And yet, the battle rages around us and within us.  Our old sinful nature loves to work against these precious baptismal promises.  It won’t admit that it has been crucified with Christ and drowned within the waters of Holy Baptism.  The singular goal of that sinful flesh and the powers of darkness that it clings to is to chip away at your faith a little at a time until you have lost your trust in Christ’s saving presence in your life.  But how?  By getting you to doubt the faithfulness of God’s Word.  This is the oldest trick the devils have, but it is still their greatest weapon.

D. Doubt is the weapon they used against Eve in the garden, when the devil asked her, “Did God really say?”

Eve’s error, her sin was not that she listened to the serpent, but that she did not silence him with the Word of God! One little Word from God and the devil would have fled.  One simple statement and he would’ve been defeated: “YES!” she should have said, “ Thus says the Lord our God, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”” [Genesis 2:16-17]  If Eve had responded with the true Word of God, the serpent would have slithered back into his hole!  But Eve entered into a battle with the master deceiver without the whole armor of God!

Friends, Eve discovered this truth after her error, after her own husband abandoned his role as spiritual leader and joined in her sin.  If they, and those after them could speak to us this morning, they would be encouraging us right now to take up the whole armor of God and “Let God clothe us!”  What is this armor of God?  It is God’s own Word!

II. Friends, in your baptism, God has assured you that you are right now connected to His inexhaustible source of power, strength, and might. You are never to think of yourself as helpless and defeated.  You see, you have been joined together with a Lord who has conquered sin, death, and the devil.  He is the Stronger One who has defeated the strong one.  Because of your baptism, you are assured of a certain amount of power, but it needs to be augmented; it needs to be fed and trained.  This is done when we allow God to strengthen our relationship with Him through His Living Word.  It is through His Word that we are given daily strength to defeat our old sinful nature and silence all of the devils.  Through His Word, God assures us that He is always for us and never against us.  How do we acquire this Word?  Again, by putting on the whole armor of God!

III. All of the armor described by Paul is just a different application of being in God’s Word!

A. Let me give you 6 contemporary presentations that explain this armor.

#1 God’s Word is truth. Truth is always truth, but for it to be your truth you must experience it.  You must live it out.  “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” [John. 8:32]  But how do we know the truth?  By reading and hearing the Word of God.  We must make time and take time for our own private and personal study of God’s Word!

#2 Because many times, our personal study time leaves us with many questions, we discover that we need to be a part of an organized Bible Study group that will help us find answers and grow in the Lord.

#3 Liturgical worship is just another way that we take in the Word of God.  In our Lutheran worship, God speaks His Word to us and we speak and even sing it back to Him.

#4 In the Holy Sacraments, God’s Word speaks His forgiveness of our many sins to us, which then causes us to confess even more sins to Him, which then in turn moves Him to speak once again the gospel—the absolution for His Son’s sake.  In the sacraments the Word comes alive for us so that we can hear, see, touch, smell, and even taste forgiveness!

#5 When we memorize God’s Word, it becomes an offensive weapon that we can use to drive away the devil.

ILLUS: Luther said it best in our sermon hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” listen: “though hordes of devils fill the land all threatening to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; They cannot over power us.  Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage.  His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail!  One little word subdues him.”

What is this little word?  It is a verse of scripture that you have memorized for the sole purpose of silencing the devil!  There are many verses to choose from; the more you have the greater your courage.  Here are some good ones: “Baptism now saves you” [1 Peter. 3:21]. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Philippians. 4:13] “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians. 2:20] “  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. [John. 6:68]  Anyone of these little words and many others WILL silence the devil, make him tremble, and flee for his life, because you are letting him know that you know, that Jesus destroyed his hold over you upon the cross.  And in your baptism this victory of Christ was made yours in a very real and personal way!

“But isn’t it hard to memorize scripture?” Not at all, in fact I’ll bet you already have a few simple words memorized.  If you have been singing and saying our liturgy, you already have quite a bit ready to use.  Dear friends, have your sword, the word of God ready and you will send the devil and the temptations of sin scurrying away like a whimpering puppy!

Finally, #6, the armor of God is with you when you allow God to put His gospel shoes on you; when you are simply living out your calling as a saved and redeemed child of God. When you live as a Christian parent, child, neighbor, policeman, lawyer, barber, or whatever other station of life you find yourself in, you are wearing your gospel shoes.  You are demonstrating and speaking the love of God to your neighbor.  You are witnessing the truth of John 3:16, which says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  We are to be this as individuals and we are to be this as a congregation.

B. It is my prayer that you are individually living out this calling everyday as God leads you in life.  It is my hope for this congregation that we will also be continually and intentionally looking for ways to engage our community in gospel conversations.  We can do this when we find ways to serve our neighbor and sacrificially love them as Christ first loved us.  Why?  So that they too may know how to obtain and put on the full armor of God.

CONCLUSION: But for this to be true for you as individual Christians and for Trinity as a congregation that is a part of the universal church, we must utilize what is perhaps our secret weapon… prayer!

You see, when we leave this house of worship, we may be tempted, due to the pressure of others, to subtract from the Word of God when ever it makes us or them uncomfortable. It is times like this that we must call out to Him so that He may respond with Divine strength that will both bolster our courage and silence our doubts.  We pray to Him and then He reminds us that while we may have left this house of worship, we have not left His presence or taken off the Armor that He has suited us with during the Divine service. And we must remember what we stand to lose if we back down; if we refuse to stand on God’s ground, which is life… abundant life!

Moses said God gives people his Word and commands “so that you may live.” The pathway to the only life worth living leads to God. “I have come,” Jesus said, “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

This dear friends is the will of God for us… it is why Jesus died for us.  It is God’s means to save us and then equip us to tell everyone what He has done, even for the entire world!  May you continue to allow God to dress you for battle, and may your feet continue to lead you out as His ambassador of peace within the victory of Jesus Christ…AMEN!

Praise To The Lord!

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

14th Sunday after Pentecost, September 6, 2009

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

 

Our text this morning is the 14th verse of our Epistle lesson.  And it comes to us in the form of a question: “What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?” [James. 2:14]

Introduction: Indeed, that is the question, “Can that faith save him?”  Can someone who is without works find comfort in God’s gospel proclamation, like the one found in our OT lesson?  Listen, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!  Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you.”  James answers this question with a resounding NO!  Instead, James would say that a person who has faith without works should hear this message more as Law instead of the gospel.  I believe that this is how James would present this message to a person with a faith that does not have good works: “But say to those who have no anxious heart; who have no fear or dread because of their sinful hearts, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid!  Because the day of the Lord approaches and you shall eternally experience God’s vengeance and His punishment!”

 

I. What is faith?  “Easy” you say, faith knows God through Jesus Christ, right?  Well…yes and no.  You see, if you know who God is, that is only a general kind of faith.  “But wait” you counter, I believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, that He suffered under Pontius Pilot, He was crucified and buried, and descended into Hell.  And I also believe that on the third day He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.”  Well, James would tell you that the Devil and his demons believe that too; and yet they tremble with fear because they know that God’s judgment is coming very soon. [James 2:19]  “But wait Pastor” you say, “I know scripture pretty well, and didn’t Paul say, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”” [Rom. 10:17]?  Ah yes, an excellent proof text for reminding all of us how important it is to be in God’s Word every day.  But, you can bet the devils know that verse by heart, and many others as well.  What good does that do them?

 

Are you confused?  Well let me shed a little bit of light on what kind of faith, is a faith that can’t save you.  Let’s imagine that there is a policeman who is issued a bullet proof vest but he refuses to wear it because it is just too hot and bulky.  One day he is tragically shot and killed.  Is the vest to blame for his death? No, of course not!  You see, the vest can offer no protection if it isn’t put on; if it doesn’t become part of his daily routine.  And that is the way it is with faith that can’t save you.  You can know the entire Bible and be an expert in Christian doctrine, but if you aren’t living in that faith and allowing it to lead you and change you, it can’t save you!  It’s what we call only a general faith.

 

But, if you know that Jesus suffered and died for you—if you admit that He needed to suffer and die for you; that he descended into hell and rose from the dead for you; if you know that He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God to someday judge you, not guilty of being a sinner, but holy, perfect and righteous because you trusted in Him alone, well then my friend… you have saving faith!  So you see friends, true saving faith grabs onto Jesus and what he provides and it makes Him its personal Savior.

 

II.  Well the question we might ask next is this, “What does faith look like?  Can you see faith in action?”  Yes, most definitely.  You can see both general faith and saving faith in action, and you can easily tell them apart.  In our Epistle lesson [James. 2:14-18], James gives us a good illustration of general faith.

 

General faith sees a Christian brother or sister in trouble…in need of food and clothing and says, “I hope you find food, and I’ll pray you stay warm” and then walks away feeling good about themselves.  James asks us this morning, “Can that kind of faith save him?”  “What kind?” we ask.  Well, the kind of faith that is never seen in practical service towards God and neighbor.  Friends, the answer is no!  Any faith that doesn’t result in a changed heart… in a life that’s changed and full of good works, James says is really an empty faith.  So you see friends, while it’s true that it’s faith alone that justifies, it is also true that justifying faith can never be alone… it can never be without works of love.  But saving faith, looks at its brother or sister in need, and because that saving faith is still holding on to Jesus, it is compelled to act.  As Christians who are led by the love of Christ, because of our saving faith, we are also compelled to help meet the needs of our neighbors.  St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians taught about this when he said, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all people, especially the needs of those who are of the household of faith.” [Gal. 6:10] 

 

Friends, when we serve our brothers and sisters in need, we can clearly hear Jesus reminding us with a smile, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it unto Me.” [Matt. 25:40] Friends, saving faith hears these words of Jesus, and it wants to always be working and serving others.  But saving faith doesn’t work because it thinks it will earn a reward, instead saving faith works because it is powered by the love of God through Christ Jesus.

 

Dear friends, we love Jesus because He first loved us and gave His life up for us.  Because He sacrificed Himself for us we find that we are also compelled by our saving faith to sacrifice ourselves for our neighbor as well.  When a Christian mother and father loves their child and teaches them about God’s love, and ensures that they are baptized, present at Sunday school, and latter confirmed, that is the love of saving faith being expressed in those Christian parents.  In fact, no matter what calling we find ourselves in whether it is parent, child, civil servant, employee, employer, student or teacher, if we serve our neighbor as Christ serves us, then my friends, that is saving faith in action. 

 

III. Well how do we know if we have saving faith?  Friends, for the answer to this question let’s look at our gospel lesson this morning.  In the gospel we encounter Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.  Listen: “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ef-fa-tha,” that is, “Be opened.”  And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” [Mark 7:33-35]   What a wonderful miracle!  Everyone who witnessed it agreed that it was most certainly a work of God.  The witnesses proclaimed, “He has done all things well.”  They concluded that Jesus could at any time give anyone who’s deaf the ability to hear and anyone who is speechless the ability to speak.  Did the crowd have saving faith? I don’t know.  They certainly were amazed, but yet, it wasn’t their ears that were given hearing and it wasn’t their mouth that was given speech.  But the man who was deaf and speechless, now that’s a different story.  How could He not have love for Jesus, the loving man that spoke ever so gently to him in a sign language that he could understand?  How could he not have been moved to trust Jesus in whatever He asked or told him?  Certainly he had to be moved to use his new voice to praise Jesus as the Savior, as his personal savior!

 

Dear friends, in your baptism, Jesus has done an even greater thing than this for you.  Through the water and the Word, He has opened your heart!  Through His Word, He has privately and in a very personal way taken you out of a sinful and dying world and secured you in His love.  Through the gift of faith, He has opened your ears so that you can hear His Word even the Word being preached right now and be changed!  Listen friends, your heart has been recreated so that it no longer fears God’s judgment, but instead it’s resting in His love.  By faith you are now able to live your life knowing that you have a God who is for you and never against you.  By faith friends, you have a mouth that desires to share with your neighbor just how wonderfully God has demonstrated His love for you!  And by saving faith, you now have hands that are being moved to serve God out of love; not because they must serve but because they want to serve.  Your heart through saving faith wants to serve your neighbor here in this church, and there out in the community where there are thousands of people dying without knowing the life giving and life changing touch of the Savior of the world Jesus Christ.   

 

CONCLUSION:  Dear friends, our faith, our saving faith, is a divine work that God does within us; it’s a work that changes us by killing the old self centered person and then daily replaces it with a personality of faith in action!  Your saving faith is a living, busy, and active faith that is mighty in the power of God.  Your saving faith doesn’t ask if there are any good works that must to be done, because it is already doing them before anyone can even ask!  I pray that every day you fight to let this living and saving faith control you and lead you as you daily praise the Lord, in thought, word, and deed!  In Jesus name….AMEN!