Posts Tagged ‘Doctrine’

What Is So Good About Good Friday?


Friday, March 25th, 2016

Good Friday, March 25th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,|
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” [Galatians 2:21]

INTRODUCTION: Through the words of our text, St. Paul argues that being right with God can not come through what we think, say, and do at all, but instead, this status can only come through Christ’s passion.  For you see, if we ourselves could have atoned for our own sins or if we could have repented by ourselves so that we might somehow become worthy to enter the kingdom of God, then God could have spared His own Son and spared Him from having to drink the bitter cup of our salvation.

I. But since God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, we can, each of us, be assured that there was no other way for Him to win us for Himself.

A. Holy Scripture testifies over and over again that Christ suffered and died that horrible death for us ungodly, sinful, and filthy creatures.  Why?  So that God could make us godly, righteous, and cleansed creatures through Jesus!  And so, we have been redeemed, brought back to God and made right with Him by the suffering, passion, and death of His Son.

B. Through His death on the cross, Jesus made a way out of no way for us, back to His Father.  By His death upon the cross, Christ disarmed the powers and principalities that once held us in the bondage of sin, death, and the devil, which without Christ’s death would hold us helpless and hopeless for eternity.

II. The atonement and passion of Christ as we stated two weeks ago in our Sunday message, is the most important teaching of the Gospel. And because of its importance we must repeat it often, even tonight: Christ died for our sins!

A. Holy Scripture also adds a very important addendum to this declaration: “We are convinced (that is we have been convinced and are still being convinced by the Word of God) that One has died for all; therefore all have died (in Christ).” [2 Corinthians 5:14]

B. Christ has died as our substitute; He died as your substitute.  It was your sins that He bore upon the cross.  That’s why His death is of vital concern to you.  He was wounded for your transgressions.  And by His stripes you are healed.  On the cross He tasted death, eternal death, and upon that tree of woe He had to experience for the first time what it means to be forsaken by God; what it feels like to be cast away from His presence and have both the Father and the Spirit ripped away from Him.

C. As St. Paul says in Romans 8, “Christ became a curse for us.”  And by this, He redeemed us from the curse of the law.  So in Christ’s Kingdom there is no more condemnation, because Christ took that also upon Himself for you.

III. The assurance that this passion of Christ really is for your salvation is given to you in the waters of your own baptism.

A. There you were baptized into the death of Christ and there you became a partaker of all that He has won for you through His suffering, death, and resurrection.  So, for this reason you must remember that your baptism isn’t just something nice that was done for you long ago, but rather it was the beginning of a life that is still being lived today, and it’s being lived out in fellowship with the crucified Christ.

B. To live as a baptized Christian then is to live by faith as one who has died with Christ; that is, your sinful nature has been destroyed, but then as we will celebrate in two more days on Easter Sunday, you have also been raised with Christ, that is your redeemed nature is now your eternal nature if you will but continue to receive this truth, this work of Christ by faith.

So, to live as a baptized Christian is to live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you!”

CONCLUSION: Even though the death of Christ is the most earthshaking event in history, it is also a constant source of assurance, joy, and thanksgiving.  Why?  Because Christ died forsaken on the cross.  And because of His death, no one who trusts in Him and His cross need ever fear that He will die forsaken by God.

Because on Good Friday Christ bore the sins of the world, He bore your sins so that you can live however many days God has granted to you as His child of faith, by faith in Him who died for you!

What Is This Meal?


Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Maundy Thursday, March 24th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

[John 6:35-51] Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of hall that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Listen again to these Words…

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” [John 6:51a]

Those words declare a bold truth; one which summarizes all that Holy Scripture teaches: In Christ is true life that even death can’t touch; there is forgiveness in plenty which forgives everyone who sees a need for and desires this forgiveness. In Christ is the very righteousness God demands we have as His children, and it is a righteousness that Christ freely gives to us, and we should want it, because it covers all of our sins.  All of this Christ protects and gives to everyone who is moved by the Spirit of God through the Word of God to believe in this exclusive means of grace.  It is this gift of faith that signifies that we have become so intimately united with Christ in Baptism that He now lives within us and gives us a portion of all that He possesses as the very Son of God.

Tonight, Jesus declares to us, that “the bread that He gives, He gives for the life of the world in His flesh.”

This doesn’t simply mean that Christ has died and given His body upon the cross, but that He now after His blessed resurrection grants to each of us something of Himself and His eternal life.  When Jesus says that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day,” He doesn’t mean His earthly body, but His “glorified body” which to us, is a mystery.  This is one reason we call this meal a sacrament, because it is a mystery to us how His body and blood can be together, in, with, and under the bread and wine.  Somehow, in a way that is outside of our ability to understand, Christ’s glorified body is bound together with the new life that only the Kingdom of God can give.

So the Lord’s Supper is “food indeed and drink indeed” for our souls. [1 Corinthians 10:16]  The cup of blessing that is blessed by your pastor gives to each of us a participation in the Lord’s body and blood.  When we have received this gift in faith, then we are one with Christ and each other; He’s in us and we’re in Him, and together we have the promise of eternal life through Him.  And in this meal we are one with all of the others who also eat and drink this real food at the Lord’s table.

All of us participate in this one bread, which makes us members of one and the same body.

We also together as one, bear witness before those who do not come forward to the altar.  We bear witness to Christ’s death for them also.   We also understand that Christ was very serious when He said: “Do this.”  The earliest Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and maybe even more than that.  “The breaking of the bread” was valued as one of the most essential doctrines that must be observed and defended if a Christian wanted to be kept safe in the Christian faith.

As always is the case in this sinful world of sinful men and women, at various times, abuses and carelessness were found in the way the meal was celebrated.  St. Paul warns those who do this that “Any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon themselves.” [1 Corinthians 11:29]  Within this warning, we must be moved to protect ourselves from all things that may lead to a lack of repentance or a lackadaisical manner in which we might approach the Lord’s table; in other words, we must never approach our Lord’s table as we would the drive up window at a fast-food restaurant.

We must also understand that this judgment that Paul refers to does not mean condemnation and damnation, but the punishment of God, which is suppose to lead us to repentance.  For “when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” [1 Corinthians 11:32]

Finally, Holy Communion is instituted for the disciples of Jesus.

Notice I did not say that it was instituted only for worthy guests.  No one who comes to His table is worthy, but everyone who comes to believe in the Word of Jesus is His disciple, and this is a status that the Holy Spirit Himself renews constantly through the Word of God, which gives and strengthens faith.

When you approach our Lord’s Table this evening, take note who also approaches and kneels with you… other unworthy disciples, saved the very same way you are being saved: Through grace alone, by faith alone, through Scripture alone, and all of this through Christ alone.  Like Peter, we too have proven our unworthiness by at times and perhaps many times, denying our Lord in thought, word, and deed.

None of us deserves to come to His table… no not one.  But what we must guard ourselves from is a spirit or a manner of coming that does not allow Christ to be Lord of His own meal and His own sacrament, and instead places us as the interpreter of what this meal is.

In order to be proper guests then, we must examine ourselves and judge ourselves properly… we all are unworthy!  When we have done this, then we must not stay away, but confess our sins, trust in Christ alone, and then eat of the bread and drink of the cup for forgiveness of sins, strengthening of faith, and as a memorial to our Lord Jesus Christ until He comes again.

On Christ’s Atonement


Sunday, March 13th, 2016

5th Sunday in Lent-HL, March 13th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” [John 8:42, 43]

Indeed, why are there still so many people today, who can not bear to hear Christ’s Word?  Even those who claim to be Christian reject large portions of His Word, which they claim are cultural and do not apply to today’s “progressive” society.  Why is this?  Could it be that they have rejected God’s demand that they allow the Word of God to have mastery over them?  Could it be that they do not wish to have complete dependency on Christ and His complete payment for our sins?  Or maybe they find the doctrine of Christ’s atonement for sin to be far too bloody and messy for their neat and ordered lives.  Or perhaps they resent the atonement because it completely negates their best efforts at living a successful life and instead insists that all of their self-worth must rest instead, entirely upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified?

In our world today we can draw a simple line of demarcation, which divides all of the worlds population into only two groups: Those who trust and live out Christ’s atonement for their sins, and those who reject it.

Looking at the large number of the religions in the world helps us understand this truth a little bit better.  There is of course Christ’s church and we who are called Christian, but right alongside of us we see and live with folks who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and members of various other pagan religions.  What we must never forget as we are living our lives in this virtual sea of religions, is that there really are only two religions.  There are religions of the Law, that is, people who try to appease and angry God by doing and living the best they can, and the religion of the Gospel, that is the belief, that God’s anger and hatred over sin has been appeased by the vicarious atonement/sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sadly, even in Christ’s church today, God’s solution to our sins, that is the message of the gospel, is not accepted as readily and easily as we would think.

Today, within the body of Christ we see divisions everywhere we look.  These divisions can be attributed to either a complete rejection of the atonement of Christ, or a surrender of any part of that doctrine, which only in it’s entirety can bring peace to sinners through God’s chosen means of grace.  So how did this happen in Christ’s church?  Well, it happened through false doctrine.

Through false prophets and apostles, our enemy the devil has been able to infiltrate the body of Christ and lead many astray with a false gospel of works righteousness.  You can identify this false gospel whenever you hear folks preach or teach anything that they claim to be essential, which consists of Jesus and this way of living or that way of worshiping.  They are the Jesus plus this or that crowd.  These false teachers have been unfaithful to the pure Word of God, and in the name of the Christian religion they have spread their false teachings, and they have grown like a cancer throughout the body of Christ.  Through the teachings of these children of the devil, the word of men has been elevated over the pure and simple Word of God, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now this truth defines both the challenge of the church today and the intent of our message this morning.  Through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and through your faithful witnessing to this simple gospel, which is the complete dependency on the teaching of Christ’s atonement for all sins, we’ve been called to help people think theologically, or think as God speaks so that others can find freedom in the atonement of Christ too.

This morning, Jesus says to us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” [John 8:51]  Now, what is that Word that Jesus asks us to guard?  It is all that the doctrine of Atonement presents through out Holy Scripture.

Jesus Word teaches us to cling to His life giving, sin forgiving Word so that we will avoid eternal judgment and receive eternal life.  It is that Word, which teaches that sin must be paid for or atoned for, and it has—through the life and death of our Great High Priest, Jesus Himself.  It was Jesus alone who entered into the heavenly and Most Holy Place and with His own blood and bought for us everlasting redemption. [Hebrews 9:11-15]  Jesus is the One who was before Abraham was, and yet He was also Abraham’s true descendant.  Jesus alone is the promised Son who carries the wood up the mountain for the sacrifice, who is bound and laid upon the altar of the cross.  Jesus is the fulfillment for you of the true ram who is willingly caught within the thicket of your sins and slaughtered in your place.  He alone is the One who wears the crown of thorns upon His head. [Genesis 22:1-14]  Even though the sons of the devil dishonor Jesus, He is vindicated by the Father through the cross as being the only true remedy or atonement for your sins.

This is the message that we must continually read, mark, and inwardly digest as the saving message of the gospel.  It is this message alone that can be brought by Christ alone, which promises that He has already given to you a gift that you can rest all of your hopes and dreams upon; it is a gift that assures you by faith that you will receive the promised eternal inheritance, simply because His death has set you free from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. [Hebrews 9:15]

The doctrine of Christ’s atonement then forces us to see that our good works, or our attempts to live a good life can never merit what Christ has completely provided for us, which is the forgiveness of sins, all of our sins.  He alone has been appointed as our mediator and willing atoning sacrifice.  This is the simple truth of God, which you are asked to receive and believe by faith.  In your baptism you were washed with this very Word and promise of God; you were sealed within God’s courts above to live a life below that reflects this “justifying faith.”

And this is the faith that saves you; faith, which makes you right with God.  First, you must receive God’s promise and believe that all of the sins of the world were forgiven upon Christ’s cross, and that this promise of forgiveness was given to you personally within the waters of your own baptism.  Second, you must admit that this is a free gift, which you play no part in.  And third, this gift is based solely on Christ’s merits, as the payment for your sins.  In other words, Christ alone is now and always shall be the atoning sacrifice for your sins.

Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world has been made once and for all and it never needs to be repeated.  We who were once far away from God are now brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.  He has brought us atonement with God.  Sin has been covered for all who desire to be covered by this sacrifice; for all of us who trust in this sacrifice alone.  So this morning, I declare to you…

This work of Christ must not remain simply a historical fact within your mind. It must become your heart felt truth.  The one in whom God dwells bodily has made peace by the blood of the cross so that all hostility between God and mankind might cease. [Ephesians 2:11-18; Colossians 1:15:22]

This morning, through the Word of God and the faith giving work of the Holy Spirit, God is inviting each of you to embrace the truth that Jesus came to rescue you from your sins so that you might live out your life in peace, the same peace that was the possession of Adam and Eve within the first Paradise before the fall.

Your entire past, present, and future now rests solely by faith upon Christ’s death at Calvary; it rests upon the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8]  The Messiah who died is for you, an absolute necessity and sufficiency no matter what direction in your life you look.  Without Christ’s atonement for our sins, and without Him as our intercessor and provider of a new testament with God, all that was promised to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets within the Old Testament would be for nothing and a complete mockery.  Without Jesus and His atonement there would be no eternal inheritance, no people of faith called to receive that inheritance, and no hope for a Paradise restored for sinful mankind.  Absolutely everything hinges upon the doctrine of atonement and this Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ.  It is on His bloody atonement that we must meditate day and night and hang all of our hopes on.

Our message this morning is one that reassures us that our Lord not only defeated our enemies outside of our bodies, but He has also defeated the enemies within us; He has defeated all of our doubts, guilt, and shame.  He has taken our guilt and shame into Himself and buried them in His own tomb, the one place that God the Father will not look, so that we can stand innocent and righteous before God’s throne of grace.  By taking our place, or by taking our sins into another place, His own body, Jesus has established Himself as Lord over our sins.  He alone has the ability to eliminate our past faults and sins.  By absorbing them into Himself, He has consumed them in the fire of His own passion.

You know, we sinners like to think that we can control our present and our future, but one thing we can never think to be able to change is our past.  Our past is set isn’t it?  It is done as we have lived it, good or bad.  But God… God can even change our past.  Jesus alone is Lord of our past.  I pray that you will continue to allow Him to be your Lord of your past, present, and future.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

God Is Love!

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God exists from eternity as one God.  God alone is eternal.  Would it surprise you to know that there are many other religions that will agree with you?  In fact, they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your own Christian faith.

You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now these other religions will never deny that God loves but they won’t agree that love is the essence of who God is.  They will argue that although God loves, love can’t be His essence, because that would make Him dependent on someone, and God depends on no one.  But this kind of argument is false because it ignores the very essence of God.

The true God is indeed one, but just believing in this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God; for you see, the one true God is also united within Trinity, and within His Triune nature God is love.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune isn’t God because a god who isn’t triune can’t be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please don’t ever let anyone lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he wouldn’t have sent His only begotten Son to suffer and die upon the cross for you!

God’s love isn’t an attribute that makes Him dependent on us, but rather it’s an attribute that defines His very essence as God in regards to the relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.

When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from the two of them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

Dear friends, while completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that his nephew Lot might be saved.  It was God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  And it was God the Son who appeared to Isaiah in heaven and out of love sent Him to preach repentance to Judah.

There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still eternally possesses eternal glory, grace, and truth.  And together the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.

It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth—He was with these Words: ““Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must not divide the person’s from the One True God or we will loose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?  Well think of it this way: While it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that there is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed, and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!  So why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way into?

Because friends, God has created a way—He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.

Although God’s voice declared that all that He had made in the beginning was good, it was our own sinfulness that forever turned good into evil.  In our natural condition, there is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for our own sin is death, eternal separation from God’s love.  But as a true champion, our saving God came to us in our own human flesh and paid for our sins Himself.  In Jesus Christ, all of God came to us.  Our Creator, out of His love for us, wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could remedy our hopeless situation.  Why do I say all of God came to us?  Because, remember, we can never divide the essence of God.  God always acts as one because He is one.

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived a sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved!

At the baptismal font God’s work of re-creation was activated for you; there at the font, you were “Born Again!”  All of the benefits of Jesus’ suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identity at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning.” This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!

Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Please, don’t take lightly what God has done for you.  Rather, embrace it and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours.  We must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, and that is why Jesus has not left us alone in this life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One!

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart when we hear the sweet words of absolution, which in turn continually moves us to come to God in prayer, knowing by faith that He hears our confession and will always forgive and love us.

Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  When we cry out in confession like Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a sinner, and I live in the midst of a society of sinners,” God in His love for us, through His Holy Spirit, touches our hearts with the Gospel, and says, “Behold, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” [Is. 6:4-8]  And by the work of the same Spirit, God speaks to our hearts and asks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go out to the world for us?”  And by the work of the same Spirit we are moved to respond, “Here am I!  Send me!” [Is. 6:8]

Note two remarkable truths. First, the Lord wants to send someone to speak for him. The question asked, “Whom shall I send?” is for the benefit of Isaiah. God wants to send a human to speak for him. God could have sent the seraphs who sang in the heavenly temple, but that isn’t His choice. Instead, God desires to send a creature limited not only by flesh and blood but also by sin. Isaiah had just confessed his sinfulness just as you have done, yet God wanted to send him.

The next amazing truth is the willingness of Isaiah. He responds without hesitation, “Here I am. Send me!” The same person who just a moment ago was terrified because of his sin is now exhibiting courage, and he gladly in embraces his call to go for the Holy One of Israel. What caused this transformation? The very same work that God wants to do in your heart; forgiveness and the realization that God wants to use us like He used Isaiah, produces the reply. Forgiveness has worked a miracle inside the prophet. Courage replaced fear. Willingness replaced a sense of unworthiness. God has worked this miracle “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). And Isaiah volunteered without knowing anything about his call. He simply expressed his willingness to go no matter what tasks the Lord had in store for him.

Friends, the mission of the church is your mission!  It comes from the heart of the Father, and from the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for everyone.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  [John 3:16]

If the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what part does God the Holy Spirit play?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED!

What this means for us is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission.  God has invited you to work with Him in His mission.  For you see, God desires to use simple means to perform mighty miracles in order to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.

Along with His Word, God uses simple water, bread, and wine, and He chooses to use you and me!  He uses us when we speak His Word and give our witness to our neighbor.  And who is our neighbor?  Anyone that God puts in our daily lives!  Won’t you give it a try?  Won’t you tell others about your love for your One True God who exists in both Trinity and Unity?  Tell them how you were saved at the baptismal font.  Tell them how you grow in His Word every day, and how your faith is nourished here at His Holy table!  Why not invite a friend to come with you to church.  Don’t worry, you won’t be alone when you do these things…remember, you’re on a mission with the rest of us, and that mission is powered by the Holy Spirit!

Well this morning dear friends, we have learned that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united together as one in love; in love for each other and their love for us, and together they lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church which is centered in His love.  And to this truth let’s bow our heads and pray:  “Teach us to love our neighbor dear Lord as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are always One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  …AMEN!

FAITH ON THE BORDER

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 21-C, October 13th, 2013

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The song you just heard, “On the Border” by the Eagles will serve as our mental hook to hang this message on.  Because, you see our message will be speaking to those of us who live here, on the Border.  Those of us who may forget that there is a whole other existence just waiting for us, outside of this border.

In our gospel reading this morning (Luke 17:11–19), Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem; on His way to die upon a cross.  He will be punished severely and die the death of a criminal even though He had committed no crime.  Jesus knew that this death was waiting for Him; He knew that it was time for His appointed ministry to be completed; to make all things new and right with God the Father.  But before He proceeded to Jerusalem, it was also His appointed time to do something else; something wonderful.  He must confirm to a bunch of sick outcasts that God really did see there suffering and sickness and He really did care!

Jesus had been traveling for the last few days along the border with Samaria.  He zigzagged back and forth across the border, from one side to another and now He is entering a small village somewhere in Galilee, of Judea.  Those of us who have lived any length of time at the border here in San Diego know what the border is like, and we can identify with what comes next in our gospel reading.  Jesus is met by 10 lepers, and one of them is a Samaritan.

Many of you know that prior to my entering ministry as a pastor, I spent 30 years in law enforcement.  My last 23 years were spent right here in San Diego, as a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.  So, I think you will concede that I know a little something about life on the border.  One thing that always amazed me during my time on the border, was how easily and freely the homeless, mentally ill, and addicted mixed and looked out for one another, regardless of what side of the border they were from.  Even language was not enough to separate them.  But I also discovered that this phenomenon was not just limited to just the immediate geographical border area, but it also played out in the surrounding cities.

There is an area many of you may be unfamiliar with here in this beautiful city of San Diego; you see, it is not so beautiful.  It is an area that surrounds 12th Street and Imperial Avenue, and its know by those who exist in it as “the Bottoms.”  I say exist, because that is about all we “normal” folks, you know, we who are truly blessed with so much stuff, would call the lives of those who live in the bottoms; they simply exist.  There you will find those folks that the government calls disenfranchised; that is they have been cut off from many privileges of our enlightened society.  Hence the name “the Bottoms!”

Even there, in the bottoms, those poor little ones look out for and take care of one another.  And that is the situation we encounter in our gospel reading.  The Samaritan is accepted by the Judeans like part of the family.  And do you know why?  All 10 of them are considered already dead by the rest of society.  They have each contracted what was then an incurable disease that would shortly claim their lives.  They are lepers; the disease they had, we now know as Hanson’s disease.  They are unclean and may not mix with the “normal” enlightened folks or they will be punished with an even quicker death.

And now, along comes Jesus, the master and Rabbi that everyone is talking about.  He is the healer that the disenfranchised have heard comes to them; why they heard that He even touches and heals lepers!  Imagine that, and now there He was just in front of them.  Wow, talk about luck, they must have thought that this was indeed their lucky day.  So they “lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Now this is the amazing part of the encounter; Jesus simply looks at them and says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (So that the priest could declare them clean and healed.)

Now can you imagine the looks on their faces?!  They must have stood and looked at each other and then argued over just what Jesus meant by that.  Imagine what response you would get if you went down to “the Bottoms” and said those words to the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill and addicted!

But they did eventually go; they did what Jesus told them to do.  And when they turned to find a priest, just like that, each was healed.  They must have looked at each other saying something like, “Dude, your healed!”  And the others saying, “So are you bro!”

“And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [Vs. 14b-19]

Dear friends, you who live on the border are also those who were once disenfranchised.  You live on the border, not because you are in San Diego, but because you have one foot in the kingdom of man, and one in the kingdom of God.   You are simultaneously saint and sinner.  You, who were once blind, now see.  You who were once sick with sin, which ate up your entire existence, are now clean.  You who were once a foreigner to God are now adopted as His very son and daughter.  You are just like the 10 lepers who was healed, the only question is, which one are you?  Are you in the group of the nine who left rejoicing at their good fortune, or are you represented by the Samaritan who returns and falls at Jesus feet in worship and praise?

Here is the good news; which one you are and will be is entirely in the hands of Jesus Himself!  You cannot will yourself to have faith in the One who has healed you; faith is simply a gift that your empty beggar’s hand receives and clings to every day.  What is it that you cling to?  It is the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God!

In our epistle reading (2 Timothy 2:1–13), Paul declares this same message, that strong doctrine to Timothy and He commands and entreats him to trust in it as well.  But more than that, he instructs Timothy in the way that God has determined to ensure that His Word is never bound, lost, or deteriorated.  That is, Timothy is to pass this strong doctrine along to other men, who will pass it on to others, until the end of this sinful age, thus ensuring that you and I today would hear it and be healed by it, just as the leper was healed that day when he encountered Jesus.

What is that message?  It is Jesus Christ true God and true man, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in Paul’s gospel; the very gospel that Paul was about to be executed for!  Paul may be in chains, but the message about Christ’s atoning death could not be shackled.  It will never be bound, because God has determined that it is the only message that can set us free from our prison of sin and the sentence of death.  It is a message that declares, “Christ died to save the world from sin!”  It is a message that is completely objective, that is it is not bound to any ethnicity or social status; it is not restricted to the religious or to genders.  It is for all people, even those who are trapped on the border; those disenfranchised who live in the bottoms!

But while it is objective, as a free gift for all, it is also very subjective, that is, it’s a personal gift that must be received and lived out.  In your baptism, you were not only washed clean of your leprosy of sin, you were also recreated.  That is you were crucified with Christ Jesus.  His death was an atoning one and yours is a repentant death.  Every day you are to put to death your sinful nature so that your new perfected nature may live free and become stronger.  Or as Paul says it in our Epistle reading, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure (that is if we cling to Christ), we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.”

Dear friends, Jesus is with you here on the border.  Even though at times you embrace the part of the border that rejects God’s love and Christ’s passion upon the cross, Jesus will not forget you.  The offer of grace is always yours if you will have it.  His Spirit still calls you to repent; to turn to Him and His cross; to remember the mighty work of your baptism.  And when you do, you will always find Him faithful to complete the work that He began in you long ago in your baptism.  For you see, you are part of His body, the church, and He cannot deny Himself.  He ensures that the church will always exists along with His Word that can never be bound on this side of the border.  It is that Word alone, which gives you the peace of forgiveness, and the love and strength of God.

Jesus is here with you on this side of the border.  He knows what it is like to be lost in the bottoms; to be part of the disenfranchised.  And to prove it, He chose to have His death upon the cross occur outside of the walls of the holy city Jerusalem.  He died on the border; as a foreigner he died the death of a leprous sinner.  It was a suffering of agonies that we will never have to endure, because He died it for us.

Jesus is calling to you now.  He is telling you that one day soon enough you too will cross the border and enter the Holy City of Heaven, where  you will be called to show yourself to Him, your High Priest and in the presence of His Heavenly Father, He will declare you CLEAN!  May you cling to this message of faith through the work of Christ alone, always… AMEN!

Thank God for Good Doctrine!

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 20C, October 6th, 2013

Click here for audio of this message

What is good doctrine?  Well simply put it is the teaching of God as revealed in His holy scriptures; in other words it’s the teaching of the Bible.  Ok, then what is the teaching of the Bible?  Well, the entire Bible has been written, gathered, and preserved so that you might know Christ unto salvation.  We sing this truth most every Sunday just before the Holy Gospel is read in these Words.  “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

Good doctrine is so easy to receive and understand that even comic book characters understand it.  Listen to the dialogue between Lucy and Linus in a Peanuts comic strip:  Lucy and Linus are looking out the window at a steady downpour of rain. “Boy,” said Lucy, “look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?”  “It will never do that,” Linus replied confidently. “In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”  “You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” said Lucy with a relieved smile.  “Sound theology,” said Linus, “has a way of doing that!”

In our Old Testament lesson (Habakkuk 1:14, 2:14), good doctrine would play an important part in bringing peace and hope to the people of Judah a people who were about to be taken away into captivity.  Through the prophet Habakkuk God’s Word would bring hope for a better future and comfort for the present uncertain times.

While Habakkuk is a prophet of God, he was also simply a man; a man who must be led by faith just like us.  So when he finds himself surrounded by uncertainty and unanswered questions, he turns to God with a question repeated over and over… “How long?!”  Lord your people are afraid, how long will we be surrounded by evil?  Lord your people are being taken advantage of and abused by crooked politicians.  How long will you let this continue?  Lord there’s destruction and violence everywhere and the threat of war looms.  How long will we have to put up with this?  Lord, even the laws that are in place to protect us are being ignored.  How long will you keep silent?  When are you going to fix this?

Yes Habakkuk is frustrated and worried; he might even be afraid, but he knows where to take these things; he takes them to the LORD his God.  He says “I will take my stand at my watch-post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what (God) will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” [Habakkuk 2:1]

This dear friends is good doctrine; it is sound theology because it directs the eyes of faith to the only One who is faithful to save and able to deliver His people of faith from the hands of the enemy.  God alone, the author and perfecter of our faith is able to as Lucy says, “take a great load off of our minds.”  When He speaks, we are to listen and trust in His Word; we are to search for that Word and wait for His promises to be fulfilled.

God did speak; He did answer Habakkuk and that same answer is given to us.  Listen: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”   [Habakkuk 2:2, 3]

What is the vision that should be written down?  What is it that should be made plain so that people may run who read it?  It is the Word of God… good doctrine.  It is the promise of God that declares that God see’s all and He is not ignorant of your suffering nor is He unfeeling.  God sees and He has acted and He will act.  It is good doctrine that reminds you not to judge God’s will and work by what you see, but on what He has promised.  Wait for it, even if God seems slow in responding.

The faithless refuse to wait for God, they want change and they want it right now, so they are willing to do anything to bring the kind of change THEY WANT, even if it is the kind of change that will hurt others and offend God.  They are puffed up in pride and no longer seek God nor care about what He says.  “But (you) the righteous shall live by (your) faith.” [Vs. 4b]  And your faith tells you to hold on, change is coming!  Even in the middle of turmoil, God’s people hold onto faith, because they know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

It was good doctrine, the pure Word of God that sustained St. Paul in hope as he wrote our Epistle lesson (2 Timothy 1:1-14) to Timothy while in prison, waiting to be put to death as a criminal, simply because he believed, preached, taught, and confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as the only provision that God had made to save a dying world from their sins.

It was good doctrine that moved Paul to write to Timothy and provide courage in the middle of persecution with these Words which are directed and filled with the very Spirit of God: “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words (the good doctrine) that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

You see, Paul knew that what he believed was God’s truth, because Jesus Himself revealed it to him.  And Paul wanted Timothy to continue fighting for this hope so that we would have it as well.  What is that hope?  It is faith in the message that declares that even if evil seems to surround you every day and others loose hope, God is still the one who stands guard as the watchman; He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill the final prophecy of all things, when all things will become new and right.  It is a message that declares that God is still the one ensuring that others will receive the simple message of faith, the doctrine of hope and like you, will be empowered to share it with others who need hope as well.

What is that message, that doctrine of hope?  It is the very power of God that saves, frees, and heals those who are trapped in their sins.  It is Christ Jesus, crucified and resurrected.  By His death He abolished death and by His resurrection he brings and gives an eternal new life.  This is the ultimate message of the gospel; this is good doctrine.  And this doctrine is to be given as a gift to each and every child of God who repents, that is turns to the Son of God Jesus Christ, and receive forgiveness of sins.

It is good doctrine, which proclaims, “Baptism now saves you.” [1 Peter 3:21] It is good doctrine, which teaches that those who take and eat, take and drink, are receiving the very body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of their faith.  It is good doctrine, which teaches us to trust and believe that when the pastor or a brother or sister speaks words of forgiveness, that is the absolution, it is not them who speak but the very mouth of God proclaiming these things to you.

In our gospel lesson (Luke 17:110), Jesus warned people then and us today, that God’s simple message of grace, His good doctrine, was being muscled out of peoples lives by false teachers, phony baloney preachers, and the philosophers of our day.  They bring a false message of prosperity or a message of self-help and a “do it yourself” life of independence from God’s care.  It’s a message that has lost the aroma of Christ and instead smells of something else.

There’s an old saying that illustrates what I mean: “Old Fisherman never die—they only smell that way.”  And that is a good way to describe false teachers and their false doctrine.  They never die, they only smell that way.”

Another way to look at false doctrine and the effect it has on the church and our lives is to examine the resourceful way that scientist control, or bring death to pests such as ants.  In order to destroy the ants, scientists have developed pellets that resemble the ants favorite foods.  The pellets are laced with a tasteless, odorless poison and sprinkled around the mound.  The worker ants immediately begin gathering up the tainted food and take it down into the heart of the colony.  Then they unwittingly feed the poisoned pellets to their queen, slowly killing her.  When the queen dies, no more workers are produced, and so in a couple of weeks the entire colony starves to death.  Isn’t it ironic that food that looked so good was the very thing that brought starvation and then death?  Yes, that is a good way to illustrate the damage that false doctrine can do.

What is good doctrine?  It is the very Word of God that produces faith to hold onto and trust in Christ alone.  It is Biblical teaching that is taught by the Word of God and caught by the mentoring of other Christians in our lives who not only taught us the faith but were living examples of it.  When they were attacked because of their faith they did not fight back with weapons of this world, but instead turned to the promises of God’s Word and waited.  When someone close to them sinned against them, they did not get even, but when asked, they freely and fully forgave that brother and sister.

What is good doctrine?  It is the truth revealed in the teaching of Jesus that declares that simple faith, the size of a mustard seed can declare to a mulberry tree, which is a metaphor for the human heart, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  We see this play out every time we hear the absolution, “You are forgiven.” You are forgiven, now go and live for the God who has saved you from sin, death, and the devil.  Go, and by the power of God live a life of faith, trusting in a God who alone has saved you and will save you!  Go and proclaim the good doctrine you have received here and share it with others; live it out so that they will see the hope of the nations, Jesus Christ! And when you see others turn to Jesus and His church for forgiveness through your testimony, simply declare with St. Paul, Timothy and all of the church, “We are unworthy servants (saved by grace, through the message of good doctrine); we have only done what is our duty.”

May Christ continue to protect His church and the simple message of grace, which we proclaim… AMEN!

It’s Good to Be a gentile-Christian!

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

2nd Sunday after Advent A, December 5, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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INTRODUCTION: In our epistle reading this morning [Rom. 15:4-13] we are allowed a glimpse into an issue that caused quite a bit of controversy within the body of Christ, the Church.  There were divisions being created over the question of how the gentiles should be received by the Jewish Christians.  Some said that they should become Jewish by adopting the historic practices of the Jews, specifically circumcision.  We must remember that the very word “gentile” was often used in a derogatory fashion.  It was someone who was outside of God’s covenant of peace with the Hebrew people who were chosen by God to be a light or a beacon unto the gentile nations.  A gentile then signifies a person or a group of people who are “strangers”  to God Almighty.  In the time of Paul, the Hebrew word “goi” or gentile meant “nation,” and often it was used to designate nations that were politically distinct from Israel. [Deut. 15:6; 28:12, 36; Josh. 23: 4]  From this use the word gentile has come to be defined as “stranger” or “heathens.”

You can see how tension could develop in the middle of a worship service, especially at the Lord’s Supper if heathen were showing up to not just worship, but to receive our Lord’s very body and blood!  Well that tension was resolved once and for all by the Council of Jerusalem in 50 A.D., it was decided that the “gentile” Christians would not be troubled with any religious burdens other than remaining with in the one faith in Jesus Christ and to abstain from things polluted by idols and sexual immorality.

So problem solved!  Now there will be no more divisions within the body of Christ right?  Wrong!  We still experience divisions within the body of Christ.  Things like economic status, color, ethnicity, styles of worship, and denominational differences still divide us.  What went wrong?  This morning we will look at two things that God’s Word says if followed will bring harmony and peace, first within our individual hearts and then within the body of Christ, His church.  They are the welcoming of all believers and the adherence to God’s Word!

I. In verse 7 in our epistle lesson we read “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  Who is it that Paul wants us to welcome?  Well he says one another, so right away we can see that he is referring to a particular group of people.  Does he mean a congregation?  Yes!  Here God through St. Paul is telling each of us to look past any prejudice or anger we may have, even if we feel it’s justifiable and welcome one another in peace. This welcoming that Paul is talking about is the type that ignores differences and grudges against other Christians, and it forgives and perseveres in love simply because Jesus first loved them!  Here Paul calls us to carry the perceived weaknesses of a brother as long as it takes.  Just helping them once or twice and leaving them to someone else is not what he has in mind.  No Paul is calling us to continually welcome them and to help shoulder their burden as long as it is needed.  But how and why should we do this?

Well in regards to the how, we must first admit that we can’t do this on our own.  You see we are all caught in sin; that is, on our own we can’t love someone else as Christ loves us!  So if we are to welcome our brothers and sisters here, we must be willing to ask Christ to come along side of us and give us a desire to forgive and to love and then we need to ask Him to give us endurance and encouragement so that He can continue to work within and through us.   Well that answers the how, but why should we do this?  Friends, St. Paul answers that question too; we do it simply for the glory of God!  We must remember that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; he welcomed us and He wants us to do the same for each other!

Well, I think that each of us can agree that this is truly God’s desire for our congregation and I’m sure that each of you will through the power of God’s Holy Spirit work towards fulfilling His will.  You know, there is nothing sweeter than a congregation that is centered in the love of God and Christ Jesus.  Jesus should be the heart of every member here!  But if we allow these words to take us no further than within this small body of believers, then I am afraid we are no better than the Jewish Christians that were admonished by the Council of Jerusalem.  Because you see there are other Christians who are not Lutherans who also hear these Words of encouragement and admonishment, and they too are being moved to act along with us!  But act in what way?  Well to love and forgive one another.  To believe that if anyone confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord they are saved and they are your brother or sister.  And what are we called to do together?  Friends, we are called to build the Kingdom of God together! 

Now some will be wondering if I am trying to say that all denominations are the same, and to this I will answer, “Certainly not!”  And yet they are my brothers and my sisters, even if they are different!  So St. Paul calls us to welcome them as well.  But how!  Let’s let St. Paul answer that question.  Listen: “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.”

II. How can there be unity in such a vast sea of different denominations and teachings?  By being in, living out, and teaching correctly God’s own Word!  By holding onto what was written and not rejecting any of it.  In His Word, God promises to come along side of us and create harmony, real unity among believers!  You see, like before, it is God coming among and within us doing the work!  The strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, Roman Catholic and protestants of all flavors are promised unity if they hold onto the pure Word of God!  Where the Word of God is preached, taught, confessed, and lived-out, you have the true church, the One Holy catholic Church!  This was our Lord’s desire when He prayed his High-priestly prayer.  If you remember he prayed that we be one as He and the Father are one.  Then He prayed: “Sanctify them in the truth; thy Word is truth.” [Jn. 17:17, 21, 23]  How do we become one?  By remaining in His Word and being set apart as Holy through it!  Why did He want us to be united?  So our unified voice and harmony would impress those in the world that were outside of this faith; so that they would desire to be part of this oneness! 

Dear friends, you don’t see the body of Christ grow by changing or getting rid of some of the Word; no, Christ says that we will only see people come to faith and rest in this faith if they remain in His truth.  How do we remain in His truth?  By remaining is His Word; all of His Word is truth!  All of God’s Word that is found in your Bible is inspired by Him.  It is to be used for reproof, for correction and improvement in our lives.  No one has the right to discard any portion of scripture.  We are to declare both the Law and the Gospel as it has been given to us!  Jesus gave His Church the specific commission to teach all people to observe all things whatsoever He commanded. [Matt. 28:20]  And Paul declared: “I have not shunned declaring unto you all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27]  In the Old Testament too, people were forbidden to add to the written Word or to take anything away from it. [Jos. 1:8; Deut. 17:19].  This means dear friends that nothing in Scripture can be regarded as culturally irrelevant or worthless, because whatsoever was written before hand was written for our learning! [Rom. 4:23,24; 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Cor. 10:11]

How can unity be restored not just in this church and our denomination, but within each denomination and throughout the Kingdom of God?  By knowing what God’s Word says and sticking to it!  This is what we call doctrine!  What is doctrine?  It is whatever the apostles and prophets wrote and taught for our learning.  These writings, this unified Word of God alone is what is the foundation of the Church.  It is the Word of God alone that proclaims the doctrine of Christ and His redemption, the forgiveness of sins for the entire world.  The Bible is a unit in which all of its parts, statements, doctrines, commandments, and promises either directly or indirectly, serve the purpose of teaching each of us how to be saved through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ.  And then it boldly teaches us how to live out our lives as children of God in a world darkened by sin, all for the glory of our God, Jesus Christ.  It is this holy Word of God alone that feeds us and then sends us out into the world to seek and save the lost!

How will we see the Kingdom of God grow?  By being of one mind and one mouth, “so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [Rom. 15:6]  Dear friends, with one voice means with one united confession of faith.  To glorify God is to speak and to act so that his glory may appear within us and among us!  As his glory is one and unchangeable so must our proclamation of His Word be along with our service to Him as we allow Him to work though us building and advancing His kingdom!  This oneness of conviction and confession is what we call our doctrine!  When we lose our oneness of mind or voice someone is wrong and God’s glory is diminished through us!  But the clearer our doctrine is and the truer it is taught the more God’s love is displayed among us and through us.  Do we work alone and ignore our brothers and sisters in other denominations in order to protect our doctrine?  No, we must work with them and allow them to see that through God’s Word and its pure doctrine we have been given not just strong instruction but also endurance and strength. 

CONCLUSION: Dear friends, I know that sometimes we can really get tired of the real doctrinal differences that are found in the various Christian denominations.  The gentile-Christians who received the pure gospel of Jesus Christ were tiring of the continued religious attacks of the Jewish Christians.  But they didn’t separate, instead they and their pastors continued to plead for harmony and unity through the pure Word of God.  They used strong doctrine to convince the Jerusalem Council that they were indeed their brothers and sisters even though before they were considered gentiles; strangers and heathen.  It was strong doctrine that brought the church together under one heart and mind, the heart and mind of Jesus Christ.  And it will be again that same strong doctrine that will unite us under that same heart and mind.  It is this pure doctrine, the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ that alone unites us and turns us from a people of religion into a people of faith; people who are resting and serving within a relationship of love with God through Jesus Christ.  Yes it is good to be a gentile-Christian; one who has been saved through Jesus Christ; one who was once a stranger to God because of sin, but no longer because of grace.  Now, together through grace and faith we can rest in His love and forgiveness by the will and power of His Living Word, Jesus Christ!

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” [Rom. 14:13]  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

God Is Love!

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God exists from eternity as one God.  God alone is eternal.  Would it surprise you to know that there are many other religions that will agree with you?  In fact, they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your own Christian faith?  You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that love is the very essence of God.  Now these other religions will never deny that God loves but they won’t agree that love is the essence of who God is.  They will argue that although God loves, love can’t be His essence, because that would make Him dependent on someone, and God depends on no one.  But this kind of argument is false because it ignores the very essence of God.  The true God is indeed one, but just believing in this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God; for you see, the one true God is also united within Trinity, and within His Triune nature God is love.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune isn’t God because a god who isn’t triune can’t be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please don’t ever let anyone lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God wasn’t love then he wouldn’t have suffered and died upon the cross for you! [1] 

 

I. God’s love isn’t an attribute that makes Him dependent on us, but rather it’s an attribute that defines His very essence as God in regards to the relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from the two of them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

 

Dear friends, while completely understanding God is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that his nephew Lot might be saved.  It was God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still eternally possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Together the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth—He was sent by these Words: ““Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must not divide the person’s from the One True God or we will loose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?

 

You see, while it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that there is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God!  So why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  

II. Because friends, God has created a way—He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared that all that He had made in the beginning was good, it was our own sinfulness that forever turned good into evil.  In our natural condition, there is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for our own sin is death, eternal separation from God’s love.  But as a true champion, our saving God came to us in our own human flesh and paid for our sins Himself.  In Jesus Christ, the entire God came to us.  Our Creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could remedy our hopeless situation.  Why do I say the entire God came to us?  Because, remember, we can never divide the essence of God.  God always acts as one because He is one.   

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived a sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved! 

At the baptismal font God’s work of re-creation was activated for you; there at the font, you were “Born Again!”  All of the benefits of Jesus’ suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identify at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning.” This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus! [Jn 3]  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  Please, don’t take lightly what God has done for you.  Rather, embrace it and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours.  We must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, and that is why Jesus has not left us alone in this life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One! 

 

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Sprit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart when we hear the sweet words of absolution, which in turn continually moves us to come to God in prayer, knowing by faith that He hears our confession and will always forgive and love us.

 

III. Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  When we cry out in confession, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a sinner, and I live in the midst of a society of sinners,” God in His love for us, through His Holy Spirit, touches our hearts with the Gospel, and says, “Behold, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” [Is. 6:4-8]  And by the work of the same Spirit, God speaks to our hearts and asks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go out to the world for us?”  And by the work of the same Spirit we are moved to respond, “Here am I!  Send me!” [Is. 6:8]

 

 Friends, the mission of the church is your mission!  It comes from the heart of the Father, and from the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for everyone.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  [John 3:16]

If the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what part does God the Holy Spirit play?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED! 

What this means for us is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission.  God has invited us to work with Him in His mission.  For you see, God desires to use simple means to perform mighty miracles in order to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.  Along with His Word, God uses simple water, bread, and wine, and He chooses to use you and me!  He uses us when we speak His Word and give our witness to our neighbor.  And who is our neighbor?  Anyone that God puts in our daily lives!  Won’t you give it a try?  Won’t you tell others about your love for God?  Tell them how you were saved at the baptismal font.  Tell them how you grow in His Word and how your faith is nourished at His Holy table!  Why not invite a friend to come with you to church.  Don’t worry, you won’t be alone when you do these things…remember, you’re on a mission that is powered by the Holy Spirit!

 

CONCLUSION: Well this morning dear friends, we have learned that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united together as one in love; in love for each other and God’s love for us, and together we are led together by faith so that God may strengthen and grow His Church which is centered in His love.  And to this truth let’s bow our heads and pray:  “Teach us to love our neighbor dear Lord as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are always One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  …AMEN!

 


A paraphrase of an idea expressed in a professional paper by Rev. Rolf Preus-ALC April 2003

 

 

We Are One as He is One

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Trinity Sunday, May 18, 2008

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

“Whoever desires to be saved must above all, hold the “universal” Christian faith.  And the “universal” Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” [vs. 1-3 of the Athanasian Creed]

God is one.  There is only one God.  The one God exists from eternity as one God.  God alone is eternal.  And to this, your Muslim and Jehovah Witness neighbors would say a loud AMEN!  Does it surprise you to know that they will appeal to this very truth in an attempt to draw you away from your Christian faith?  You see, in addition to confessing that God is one, we Christians also confess that God is love, in fact we say that Love is the very essence of God.  Now your Muslim and JW neighbors will never deny that God loves but they will deny that this love is the essence of God.  You see, they will claim that if God can’t be God unless He loves someone, then God cannot be God without someone to love.  So how can an eternal God be dependent upon His creation in order for Him to be God?  Muslim and JW(s) will tell you that although God does love, love cannot be of God’s very essence, because He is dependent on no one.  But this kind of thinking about God is a lie and it isn’t any better than the lies that come from people who worship many gods.  There’s no difference between having one idol and having a few dozen.  Idols are idols.  The Moslem and the JW god is an idol.  The true God is one, but the mere acknowledgement of this fact doesn’t mean a person is worshiping the true God.  The one true God is also united within Trinity.  The only God who exists is the Triune God.  Any god who isn’t triune is not God because a god who is not triune cannot be love, and God is love.  Dear friends, please do not ever let any devil lead you away from this truth because it is crucial to your very salvation.  If God was not love then he would not have suffered and died upon the cross for you![1] 

I. The love of God is not an attribute that makes Him dependent on us.  It is the eternally defining attribute of God that defines His very essence as God in regards to the relationship shared between the three persons within the One Godhead.  When we say God is love we are also saying that God could not be love unless He was Triune.  You see, there’s an eternal unity of love between the Father who begets and generates the Son who is begotten.  This eternal unity of divine love exists as well between the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who is sent from the them.  But as I told the children, this is far too high for us to grasp.  You see, how God relates within Himself is far too much for us to comprehend.  After all, He is the Creator and we are the creature!

While truly understanding God completely is far above us, we can know about Him by paying attention to what He has already revealed about Himself.  We know from scripture that the Father has generated or begotten the Son on many occasions.  It was the Son and two angels who visited Abraham outside of Sodom and Gomorra to warn Abraham of the pending destruction of the two cities, so that His nephew Lot might be saved.  It was the God the Son generated by the Father who took on the form of a burning bush so that Moses might behold some of the Lord’s glory and receive God’s Law that would teach Israel and the people of faith how to relate rightly to a Holy and loving God.  There are many more instances throughout scripture that demonstrate that God the Father generates or begets the Son in order to accomplish the purpose of God, but for us, the best example is found in John 1:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]
Do you hear in those words how the Son is now forever generated or begotten in human flesh yet He still eternally possesses eternal glory, grace and truth.  Do you understand how together the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.  It was God the Spirit who was hovering over the face of the waters in the very beginning of creation. He was sent by the Father and the Son, and together they created the heavens and the earth-He was sent by these Words: “”Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. [Genesis 1:1-4]  Like a marvelous symphony God’s Word’s of Love spoke forth creation and goodness.  It was an eternal love generated and sent from the heart of the One true God who has revealed Himself in three persons.  But we must not divide the person’s from the One True God or we will loose His essence, which is love.  What do I mean by this?

You see, while it is the Father who generates or begets, and it is the Son who is begotten but not made, and it is the Holy Spirit who is sent together by the Father and the Son, there are not three God’s but One. As One, the three persons created everything that is together.  The divine mystery of God’s triune nature is this: As One they have always existed and since God does not change they will always be One in glory and majesty.  There is only One Uncreated, Eternal, and Almighty God.  When we pray to our Lord in heaven we do not pray to three Lords, but rather we pray to one Lord because the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.  Three persons united eternally in One essence of love, which is God! 

After all of this, I think that we all now agree that God’s ways are far above our ability to understand, so why am I talking about an eternal relationship of love into which you and I could never find our way?  

II. Because God has created a way-He has brought His love to us!  In so doing He has established fellowship with us.  But in order to enjoy all of the benefits of this relationship (eternal grace, mercy, and peace with God and each other), we must also faithfully believe that God the Son took on human flesh.  God did this not because He needed to, but rather He did it because He is love.  We are the ones in need!  We need God to come to us.  Although God’s voice declared all that He had made in the beginning good, it was our own sinfulness that has forever turned good into evil.  Think now, in the privacy of your own hearts, who among us has not thought or done evil already this morning?!  We must agree that without intervention we could never stand before a perfect and righteous God!  There is not a single thing that we can do to save ourselves…we need God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness.  And yet the punishment for sin is death, and that is precisely what it will take to pay for our sinfulness.  But as a true champion, our Redeemer God came to us in our own human flesh and paid for our sins himself.  The entire God came to us.  Our creator wrapped Himself in creation, because only He could remedy our hopeless situation.  Why do I say the entire God came to us?  Because if you remember, we can never divide the essence of God.  God always acts as one because He is one.  Now I know that once again, this is far above any of us to understand, but we must believe this truth because it is how God has revealed Himself.  Let me offer a crude representation that might make this a bit more intelligible:

ILLUS: Before a wedding, there were three women in the dressing room putting a dress on the bride, who was one of the three and she participated as well with the putting on of the dress. We could say that all three were dressing her; and yet only one is being attired in the dress and not the other two. Similarly we must understand here that all three Persons, as one God, created the one humanity, clothed the Son in this, and united it with His person, so that only the Son became man, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet because God is One and not three, the Son who from the time of His birth as Jesus would now eternally be fully God and fully man. 

Friends, it was this same Jesus who lived the sinless life on our behalf.  It was this same Jesus who allowed Himself to be put to death by sinful men.  He did not have to do this but rather He chose to suffer and die for us, because God is love.  Please hear me, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,(because it was your sins that compelled God out of love to suffer and die for you.  But be of good cheer), God (has) raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:23-24]  By His stripes you have been healed.  By His suffering and death you have been released from the eternal punishment for your many sins!  By God’s love you have been saved! 

At the baptismal font God’s work of re-creation was activated for you.  All of the benefits of His suffering and death were given to you.  The old sinful man and woman that was your identify at birth has now been put to death through His same Word of creation that was spoken “In The Beginning”. This re-creation of life from death is now yours because of God’s own suffering and death through Christ Jesus!  Dear friends, do you see what a wonderful gift of love is now yours?  You have been freed from your former body of death and you have been given a new life.  I implore you do not take lightly what God has done for you.  Rather, embrace it and cherish this gift.  Live out this new life with certainty that it is yours.  As wonderful as this new life is and as sinful and undeserving as we may be, we must not doubt that this gift is ours, because it was given out of God’s love.  And yet when the troubles of life creep in, we do doubt, and that is why Jesus has not left us alone in this life as orphans.  He promises that He and the Father are still with us in love, because He has sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit is, there also are the Father and the Son, because God is One! 

It is the Holy Spirit who moves our hearts to hunger for hearing and studying God’s Word.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to remember God’s saving love when we remember our own baptism.  It is the Holy Sprit that creates a hunger within us to gather at the Lord’s Table where we receive His very body and blood when we eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.  It is the Holy Spirit that creates in us a clean heart, which in turn moves us to come to God in prayer, asking first for forgiveness and then for all the desires of our heart, with the assurance that God hears us and answers us according to His will.

III. Dear friends, because God is One and God is love, and because we are called into fellowship with Him by love, then we are also called into the fellowship of His Mission to seek and save those that are lost and dying, separated from His love because of sin.  This mission is from the Father, and the Son who is the very message of the mission. This message, which you have been given is nothing less than the good news about the incarnation, suffering and death of Jesus Christ for all sinful men, women, and children.  The message is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Since the source of mission is God the Father and the message of the mission is God the Son, then what of God the Holy Spirit?  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is the very power of God’s mission.  MISSION IS HOLY SPIRIT POWERED!  What this means is that God’s mission can’t fail because He is the very source, message and power of that mission, but God always uses means to accomplish His mission.  He uses simple things to confound the supposed wisdom of the devil and sinful men.  God chooses to use you and me!

Now while it is true that not all are called to be missionaries and pastors in the strict sense, all of us are called to be witnesses of God’s love in our own lives.  We are all called to be ambassadors of His love and we are to declare His message in our own words, but they are words that are centered in God’s love for us; they are centered in His Word, which is the very Word that has given us new life and sustained us while living out our lives in a sinful world!  As we live out our lives centered around God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is ever active within and around us, leading us out into our communities with the message of Jesus Christ.  When Jesus told his disciples and the church to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, he promised that He would be with them always. [Matthew 28:18-20]  Jesus also promised the disciples (that’s you and me), that He would send the Holy Spirit, the counselor, who would teach them the truth, and this truth will “convince the world concerning sin and righteousness,” He promised that the Spirit would bear witness to Christ, and that He would live in them and endow them with His gifts (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7-8).  You are God’s disciples.  You are the means by which God intends to reach the lost.

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is united for eternity with the Father and the Son, and together They lead us by faith so that they may strengthen and grow God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son propels all believers out into the mission field, our community, armed with the Word and Sacraments, personal witness and Christian living in order “to convince the world concerning sin and righteousness.  And to this truth we answer, “Teach us to love our neighbor as you love us, and lead on O Lord, and let us be one in missionary zeal as you are One-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

In Jesus name…AMEN! 


A paraphrase of an idea expressed in a professional paper by Rev. Rolf Preus-ALC April 2003