Archive for the ‘Psalm 14’ Category

Where’s Your Heart?

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

12th Sunday After Pentecost, August 23, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Our text this morning is the 33rd verse of our Epistle lesson: “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” [Eph. 5:33]

Introduction: Did you know that Christians are more likely to get divorced than non Christians?  I was shocked when I heard this.  According to the Barna Research Group, Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.  That finding took me by surprise.  I knew that divorce was high in the church, but I thought it was at least equal to society at large.  I know I can hear some people now: “Oh so what pastor, that’s just the reality of our world today.  Besides as long as we’re living in this sinful world that just the way it will always be, right?  And to that, the Lord, not me, says “NO!  That is not the way it should be.”  Friends, God doesn’t want you to live a miserable life; in fact, He wants you to have a blessed life… not just in heaven but right here, right now in this sinful world.   

 

I. St. Paul’s entire letter to the church in Ephesus is all about God’s desire to bless us within Christian relationships.  It’s about how the members of the church should relate to God and to each other.  The goal of his teaching was to ensure that everyone was built up and strengthened in their walk of faith by God and each other.  St. Paul also encourages Christians to demonstrate God’s love to an unbelieving world, so that God can draw unbelievers to Himself through His Word and the attractive lives of Christians.  Paul taught the Ephesians and he teaches us that no matter what position of life we find ourselves in, we are to let Christ’s presence within us “shine before others, so that (the unbelieving world)  may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.” [Matt. 5:16]  This is what the church has always called our “vocation” or our calling, and this calling always involves a cross—a self sacrifice. 

 

You see, just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for us upon the cross, we too are called to sacrifice, or put to death our old sinful nature, because that nature was drowned and killed in the waters of our baptism.  That is our reality.  We were born again in those waters and given a new identity.  But the old you don’t want to die and leave this world of sin, so God must help that old you die every day.  In your calling, in your station of life there is always a cross; always a calling from God to put to death your old self centered sinful nature—it doesn’t matter if you are the president, a sports star, a pastor, a husband or wife, daughter, son, or a student, every position of life that a Christian finds themselves in they are to work towards crucifying their old human nature, by drowning it in the waters of their baptism.  Why?  So that God can work through you serving others.  In your vocation, you become the hands of God to your neighbor who is also bearing his own cross.  How does a Christian bear their cross?  By accepting all difficulties that come, no matter how large or how small; even trivial things like caring for babies to the point where your sleep is interfered with and loving a spouse even when they don’t seem to love you back these are all crosses that we are to willingly bear!  “Now wait a minute pastor, you’re getting a little personal here.  We all know that there really are bad marriages!”   Yes, I know that is what society says in this “no fault” divorce world, but that does not mean that it is true according to God’s way of seeing things.  But the truth is friends that many Christian marriages never should have taken place because God was not and is not in them!  These marriages stand before God, correctly evaluated by the words of Isaiah in or Old Testament reading: “These people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” [Is. 29:13]   

 

I have a strong policy when it comes to performing marriages.  First, I will not officiate a wedding if a non-believer is one of the parties.  Second I will not perform the ceremony if they will not commit to 4 to 6 counseling sessions.  Third, I will not do it if I feel that one of them is not committed to the Lord and to their prospective spouse.  Now that’s a pretty sound policy for a pastor to follow, but the problem is that people are generally smooth talkers… they tell you what you want to hear.  They might be able to fool the pastor, but they can’t fool God.  Now over time, I’ve discovered that some of these marriages ended in divorced.  Why?  Because they rejected the high and holy cross of Christ; they refused to follow their baptismal identity, which was to die to self and live for Christ.  One of them or both, decided to live for themselves and when they did this they turned their back on their calling of marriage.  “Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us?  Who knows us?” [Is. 29:15]  Friends, I’ll tell you who sees and who knows, it is God, the potter who formed you O clay!

II. Now friends, let God open your ears and hear His plan for your life and for marriage if that is His will for you.  First of all, if you have been living as if there is no God, then confess this sin.  If your actions or your failure to act caused a prior marriage to end, confess this before the Lord and be forgiven.  If you have not been following God’s leading in your life regarding any kind of relationship that even resembles marriage confess this as sin before the Lord and get ready to be transformed and blessed.  You see friends, when we confess that we have put our selfish needs ahead of God and another person, God smiles and says “Now that’s a start.  Now you are beginning to understand your baptism.  You are beginning to see things the way I see them and not the way this sin soaked society sees them.”  The truth is friends, that God wants you to understand that the real problem all of us face is the fact that we are broken by sin, separated from God, and unable to find Him and happiness with others until we turn away from our old sinful identity and turn to our new identity in Jesus Christ.  God wants to return us to our original condition before the sin of Adam and Eve destroyed it.  He wants us to relate to Him through faith and each other in love—and the only way this can be done is by submitting to His will… surrendering to His loving care.  This is how Adam and Eve related to God and each other.  Eve knew that God loved her because Adam demonstrated that love to her.  Adam knew that God loved him because God proved it by sending him Eve, his life mate and helper.  Each time they looked at each other, they were seeing the love of God!

 

“Oh come on pastor” you may be thinking, “that’s an ideal that can never be realized!”  Yes that’s true for those who are separated from God because of sin, but you dear baptized friends are not under judgment, you are under grace.  Your marriage or future marriage has now been compared to Christ and His church.  You unmarried women, do you want a strong and blessed marriage?  Then look for a man who loves the Lord more than himself.  Look for a man that is living out his baptism; a man who’s struggling everyday to put to death that old sinful man.  Look for a man that will sacrifice himself to please God and his neighbor, because that is the kind of man who will sacrifice himself and his own selfish needs for you!  You unmarried men, do you want a woman to willingly allow you to take on the role of spiritual leader, provider, and protector?  Then look for a woman who humbly worships her God and cares for the needs of others above her own.  Look for a woman who values her baptism as the most important possession that she has.

 

“But pastor, what about those of us who are stuck in a bad marriage?”  Well what do you mean by bad?  If you are being physically abused by your spouse then you must get help… you must separate yourself from the abuse.  It is the Lords will that the abuser be stopped and that is why He has put government over us, to protect us, so tell it to the police.  But if by “bad” marriage you mean, that your Christian spouse does not love you as God intends, then may I refer you back to our Epistle lesson.  “Wives, are you voluntarily submitting to your own husband and trusting him as you do the Lord?  Do you agree with God’s Word that your husband is the head of your household just as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior? [Eph. 5:22,23]  “But pastor, it doesn’t work that way.  You’re being one sided.  It’s a lot more complicate than that!”  Yes, I suppose it is, but wait until you hear God’s direction for your husband.  “Husbands, do you love your wives?  Do you love them as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her?”  “Come on pastor, what does that mean?  Sure I would die for my wife!”  Fine man, then die for her!  Die for her by working to provide for your family, even to the point of exhaustion.  Love her and forgive her even when she does not love and forgive you.  Put her needs first above your own.  This is your calling… this is your cross… this is how God wants you to die for your wife.

 

Dear friends, we are all to die to our own sinful desires every day.  We are to die to self and live to serve God and our neighbor.  We do this by remembering our baptism.  We do this by remembering that Jesus loved us and the whole church, and He proved it by giving Himself up for us, so that he might sanctify us through the cleansing of the waters of our baptisms.  Through simple water and God’s Word he saved us, so that He might present us to Himself as holy and perfect, without a single blemish.  Jesus did this for us… He did this for you.  He suffered and died so that you would know the forgiveness of God, and then be able to rest in that forgiveness and reflect it to others!  This is the mystery that the world can never understand, but to you who know Him by faith it is no mystery.   For it is through God’s grace that comes through the cross of Jesus that we can truly love God with all of our hearts, and that is where our hearts are… they’re at the cross of Jesus, and through the cross we can truly love our neighbor, even our spouse as our selves.  Now may God’s Word and His message of love inspire each one of us men to: Love our wives as ourselves, and may you wives see that you respect your husbands. I pray that this will always be the desire of your heart…in Jesus name….AMEN!