Did you know your hairdryer can help break in new leather shoes? Your microwave has the capability of fusing glass, measuring the speed of light, and squeezing the remaining juice from fruits. Your smartphone can read things out loud to you, like how many people are in your picture or the number of emails you receive. It can also take your words, put them into print, and send a message. …And if you don’t have a smartphone, any cellphone can unlock a car that uses a key-fob. Those are only a few additional things hairdryers, microwaves, and cell phones can do.
When we get new toys, excitement pounds the body. We use that toy right away—sometimes without reading the instructions or studying all of its capabilities. And it works great! You dry your hair. You cook food. You make calls and fire off text messages. Then, when the initial excitement wears off and you spend more time with that gadget, you discover additional features and more functions. It delights you even more.
So, let’s take a few minutes to revisit Bethlehem. Approach the manger with a curiosity that discovers all this child comes to do. Grasp those priceless joys God pours out on this most holy day. God Sent His Son! A Son to live with us under law and to live with us through his redemption.
Yes! Of course! We know that already! While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son (Luke 2:6-7). Stop and ponder that for a moment. Those well-known words are not a simple retelling of the first Christmas. God puts those words down in writing so that you can see a promise kept. A promise thousands of years in the making. A promise first made to trembling Adam and Eve. A promise repeated to childless Abraham. A promise proclaimed by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi. A promise repeated to millions, many of whom shrugged it off. [W]hen the time had fully come, God sent his Son…
God did what he said he would do. He did not turn his back and forsake a world of rebels. He did something the world did not deserve, something the world did not request. God Sent His Son. Not an angel. Not another prophet. Certainly not fiery destruction. He sends the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the One present before the world began and the One who stands long after time ends. God sends the only One who can change our lives. God Sent His Son.
So look again at the manger. The One lying there is God. When you see this baby, you see the face of God. When you touch this baby, you touch the perfect God. When you hold this baby, you hold Almighty God. When you listen to this child, you listen to God. When this Teacher comforts you, God comforts you. When this Teacher forgives you, God whispers forgiveness directly to you. God sent his Son, born of a woman…
True God—and at the same time, true man. Jesus is a human being— just like you and me. There’s a reason for this: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (Hebrews 2:14). Humanity— like skin and bones and blood. A brain and eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Jesus gets hungry. He grows sleepy. He cries and mourns. He has our human needs and our human emotions.
Yet, this goes deeper still. Because Jesus has flesh and blood, he, too, is born under law. God’s law, meaning, God expects Jesus to obey every single command. Consider that. God creates his commandments, his worship laws, and a law to govern life (Exodus 20-31). Then, he chooses to live under that law. He holds himself accountable to the same demands he created.
What king does that? Kings who create laws tend to live outside of those laws. Yet, your Jesus is born in order to live with you under law. That means, Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows how difficult it is to trust God to provide food and income, and to protect health. Jesus also was tempted to make his own bread out of stones (Matthew 4:1-4). He knows the feeling to challenge God’s promises. To act in half-unbelief. The devil tells him to jump off a building because God would [supposedly] keep him safe (4:5-7). He confronts that green envy to guard wealth, to love pleasures so much you would rather give up heaven than give up your life (4:8-10). Jesus also read the Word, heard the Word, and let the Word sink into the heart, and still faced the pull to run away from it. [Jesus] been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
God Sent His Son for this reason: to live with us under the law and to obey every single article, sub-article, point, and detail. In Jesus you see perfection.
That perfect life marches to the cross. He takes your place (and mine) under God’s punishment. No, not that Jesus just no longer lives. Rather, God’s punishment is separation. Jesus is separated from the Father. God the Father turns his back on his Son and does not listen to Jesus’ cries for help. Yes, God is still present, but does not love. It would be like a prisoner locked behind bars. You throw the key down the hall and walk away. You hear the screams, but do not turn back. You ignore the tears, the sobbing, the crying. You walk away, leaving that criminal to fend for his own life. This is hell. To live forever without God’s love. This is what you and I deserve; to live forever without God’s love— and Jesus suffers so that you (and I) never will.
God Sent His Son to live with us under the law so that he may live with us through his redemption. Redemption. To ‘redeem’ means to ‘buy back.’ That’s what grocery stores do. A grocery store sends a coupon for $.50 off some groceries. Bring it to the store, hand it to the clerk, and she will give you $.50 to get the coupon back. We are conceived in sin, and born dead in sin (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:1). Sin binds us to hell. The only way out of hell is perfection; the only offer God accepts is holiness. We have nothing to offer that God wants, but Jesus does. He walks into heaven, stands before the throne of his Father, and hands him his perfect life. The Father takes that perfect life and he releases us from hell. You (and I) are free. You (and I) are redeemed, ‘bought back’ to Jesus.
God Sent His Son to redeem those under law. That is your status now: free! Yes, guilt flares up. Shame might plague you. Frustration swells over poor choices. Yet, nothing will bind you to eternal misery. When Jesus died, his blood unlocked our chains. When Jesus rose, hell’s gates were thrown open and we ran out and up!
This is the reality!— and this is what makes Christmas so grand! God Sent His Son to live with us through his redemption. Jesus does not free us so that we can simply live for no reason, no purpose. You are not set free like animals released into the wild, aimlessly searching for family or home, for purpose. Rather, the shackles of slavery are removed so we can live under God’s care.
God sent his Son… that we might receive the full rights of sons. That is what you have, the “full rights of sons.” That includes you, ladies; God hands you what the firstborn son received. In the past, the son inherited the father’s wealth when the father died. All of it. He became the boss of the family business. He cared for the household. He managed the wealth. He receives the full rights to do and manage as he pleases. Nothing was divided. Nothing was split. Nothing was limited. He owns everything. When God says, we might receive the full rights of sons, he makes clear that nothing of his is off limits.
That means, you are God’s son now. You have changed from ‘sinner’ to ‘saint!’ You can approach God for any need, with any concern, for any reason at any time just like you approach your earthly father. God listens because he sees you as belonging to him.
He gives you heaven—and nothing is off-limits there. You can enter his throne room. You will not have to make reservations to see God. You will not need to pull a number and stand in line. You will not have ranks in heaven— where the rich live by the golden sea or the strong-in-faith live in luxury mansions and you live in the barracks. You are all sons of God. Regardless of your past, regardless of your time as a Christian, regardless of how much Bible you remember, you all have full access to God’s heaven— live in the same place, see the same God, and will enjoy all things.
If you are sons, then it means the father has graciously lavished this gift on you. You do not need to fabricate reasons all is well between you and God. Rather, the you can point to the manger and live confident. God Sent His Son to live with us through redemption.
When we get new toys, excitement pounds the body. We use that toy right away—sometimes without reading the instructions or studying all of its capabilities. And it works great—but so much joy is overlooked without studying that object more. Hairdryers, microwaves, and phones have so much potential when you take the time to study their uses a little closer.
Christmas becomes dull and repetitive when we rush over the Christ in the manger. Approach the manger with curiosity and discover a child who lives with us under law. Any pressure to undo the past, any despair flies away when you grasp how Jesus lived in your place. Then, he brought us to himself—without our actions or asking! Look to the manger and grasp those priceless joys God pours out on this most holy day. God Sent His Son! A Son to live with us under law and to live with us through his redemption.
We’ll call her… ‘Hannah.’ ‘Hannah’ does not want to get married. To her, marriage means heart-wrenching hurt, and she does not want to experience that hurt again. You see, ‘Hannah’s’ mom and dad were married and had her. Sometime later, they divorced. Dad remarried and had three children with his new wife. Mom married a man with three children from a previous marriage. So, ‘Hannah’s’ family consists of three step-siblings [not related by blood], three half-siblings [related by blood], and she’s in the middle. Her step siblings live with her mom and have a father. Her half-siblings live with her dad and have a mother. She lives with grandma. Dad does not cherish her, mom ignores her. To ‘Hannah’ marriage hurts.
We can call him… ‘Henry.’ ‘Henry’ does not want to get married either. To him, marriage means bitter arguments, and he does not want a wife who only argues. You see, ‘Henry’s’ mom and dad were married for many years and had several children. Then, dad’s wandering eye latched onto a [non-blood-related] sister-in-law. Dad divorced mom; sister-in-law divorced husband, and they married each other. Now, ‘Henry’s’ dad loves him, but his new mom not so much. This leads to arguments between mom and dad. Mom and dad grow so frustrated with each other that they yell at their kids, ignore their physical needs, and do not tend to their emotional needs. To ‘Henry,’ marriage means arguing.
‘Hannah’ and ‘Henry’s’ experience echoes the all-too-common attitude of our society: Marriage is not good. Many associate marriage with hurt and heartache and division. So, marriage is put off in order to avoid pain. The hurt inflicted and the reaction to that hurt was never part of God’s plan.
God makes that clear by leading us back to what he intends marriage to be. [S]ome Pharisees came and tested [Jesus] by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Really, the Pharisees have no intention of learning. This calculated question attempts to steer Jesus into a contradiction. Either Jesus (1) rejects God’s institution of lifelong marriage or (2) he disagrees with Moses, the God-approved and revered teacher of the Pharisees. Yet, Jesus is not about to share his opinion. Instead, he returns to the written Word: “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” That’s true; Moses did allow Old Testament Israelites to file for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and God did not stop him. Notice, though, God allowed divorce; he did not establish or command divorce.
The opposite is true! God instituted (or: ‘set up’) marriage in Eden (Genesis 2:18-24). Later, God protected marriage at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:14). “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’” Just think about that. Man and woman are similar, but different. They look physically alike, but have different features. They both problem solve, but reach different solutions. They have emotions, but comfort in different ways. God makes men different emotionally, physically, and mentally. God makes women different emotionally, physically, and mentally. When you put them together, those differences become compatible. “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.” Husband and wife care for one another with a single-minded focus. Men receive emotional, physical, and mental blessings from a wife. Women receive emotional, physical, and mental blessings from a husband. What is important the wife becomes important to the husband. What is important to the husband becomes important to the wife. This companionship is a blessing. It gives the security and the commitment so many crave. God set up something good (Genesis 1:31).
The Pharisees’ question is all wrong. The question is not: “Can you divorce?” Rather, “If God did not create divorce, then who did?”
That question resounds to this very day. When you look at what God intends marriage to be, you quickly reach the conclusion that God did not create problems through marriage. Husband and wife transform each other’s weaknesses into strengths. Marriage is about how much you give. The reason ‘Hannah’ and ‘Henry’ have such a low view of marriage is because their parents demanded to receive.
The number one reason marriages end in divorce is because at least one spouse is selfish. Jesus makes that clear: It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law.” Husbands were bringing home mistresses. They were blowing money at the bar. So, God allowed divorce in order to protect the innocent party. The husband had already terminated his marriage and God allowed the wife to find commitment in a new spouse. The problem is not God, the problem is us.
If marriage feels unwanted, then the question must be: “As a husband, am I loving my wife as my own body?” (Ephesians 5:28) “As a wife, do I respect my husband like I want to be respected?” (Ephesians 5:22) “As a Christian, do I treasure the blessings God sets up through marriage?” (Hebrews 13:4) When our attention drift from God’s intention for marriage, then it is we who introduce hurt and heartache into our relationships. Our selfishness actually robs us of the joy God intends marriage to give and be. Marriage is ‘good’ because God made it good. It is our selfishness which separates what God joins together.
The way to reverse this attitude is to let God’s Word reverse our hearts. The motivation to love selflessly comes only when we see how selflessly Christ loved us. When we ignored his Word, we separated ourselves from his loving arms. We wandered, chasing after the short-term pleasures of this world. Pleasures of commitment without marriage. Pleasures of domineering and belittling our spouse. Pleasures of transforming relationships only to benefit us. Those pleasures only fill us up with joy for the moment, but never give real happiness.
God had every right to sign a certificate of divorce and send us away (read Isaiah 50). Instead, he sought us. Jesus gave his entire life on the cross, putting his needs below our wandering needs. Losing his life because he knew we needed life. He cared for us that he drinks God’s wrath. Raised from the dead, he raises us to be his bride, to live with him in his kingdom forever.
Child-like faith grasps the selfless love of God. That is why Child-Like Faith is The Foundation of Marriage. It grasps God’s revealed blessings that he set up. Your faith takes God’s intentions for marriage to heart. You then take those intentions and apply them to your marriage—or to your views of marriage. Remember, what is inside of you will be seen through your words and actions. Faith promotes God’s revealed blessing.
The way you treat marriage will reveal to others the blessings God gives through marriage. It starts with you. [Jesus] answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Remember, Scripture gives two reasons for divorce: (1) marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9) and (2) malicious desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). The one who had an affair or leaves a spouse breaks the oneness of marriage. The innocent person did not end the marriage, the aggressor did. God protects the innocent by allowing them to find commitment with someone else. Those who break their marriage commit adultery. God’s judgment is reserved for those who toss aside his command, break their promises, and share their body with someone else.
Christians who have fallen into this sin repent. (1) They admit their selfishness. (2) They receive God’s forgiveness. (3) They turn from past behavior. The divorced might reconcile with previous spouse. If they do get remarried, they do so knowing full well that God does not desire them to get divorced again. Their second marriage would seriously treat their union as the lifelong union God desires. Faith promotes God’s revealed blessings. Others see it and carry a Godly view of marriage.
That is important today. Many live together before marriage, purchasing a home, sharing a bank account, and even raising a family. Do you wonder why that is? During the 1980s and 1990s the divorce rate stood high (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/divorce_rates_90_95_99-11.pdf). Nearly half of those who could marry today came from divorced households. That means, you have a generation who have experienced hurt, heartache, and arguments. Either (1) their parents were divorced and they do not want to bring that hurt on their children or (2) they do not to reintroduce that hurt into their own lives. Delaying marriage is meant to insulate and protect.
We do not help when we close our mouths and say nothing. We might say: “Well, times have changed.” Times might have changed, but God’s Word has not. The blessings he showers in marriage then are the same blessings he gives today. Searching for those blessings outside of marriage will never bring lasting commitment. So, God uses you (and me) to share his blessings with others. People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” If others are to know, learn, and live marriage, then they “must be brought” to know and see what Godly marriage is.
Some children do not treasure marriage because their parents did not treasure marriage. If we do not model God-pleasing marriage, then how can our children hope to live God-pleasing marriage? Regardless of your age, you can share with others the blessings you received in marriage. You can highlight how selfishness creeps in to destroy union. You can help others set their sights on the selfless giving. People need to hear God’s intentions of marriage. Not just that, people need Godly examples in our world today.
Look, you (or your friend) might be apprehensive of marriage. Maybe your parents did not shine the best example. That should not have been. But, do not remain stuck under the shadow of the past. Living together does not bring more commitment. You can still leave at any time! It will still hurt you and hurt children! The way to prevent that hurt is to set your attentions on God-pleasing marriage. See the myriad of blessings God gives. Be different; set a new trend by turning to the Word.
Families brought their children to Jesus. He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. And Jesus blesses you too. You (and I) do not approach him physically. No, we approach Jesus in his Word. Set your heart and mind on the Word and see how he blesses you through marriage. He gives you security. He gives you companionship He gives you the satisfaction in trusting others.
Many will see marriage as something ‘not good.’ Yet, you know the truth. Jesus reveals God’s good intentions for marriage. Change a broken view by viewing the Word. As explore God’s intentions, you see how Child-Like Faith is The Foundation of Marriage. Faith grasps God’s revealed blessings Faith promotes God’s revealed blessings.
I recently came across these words from another Pastor and want to share them with you this morning. As I read them, try to make mental notes of anything that jumps out at you. Alright? Here we go:
The world now seems to operate according to the motto: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ All sinners proceed on the assumption that there is no God whom men must fear and no judgment in which man must give an account. People make no secret of their sins; they even boast about them. As at the time of the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, sinners regard themselves as secure and carefree. They seek money, bigger houses, and other worldly pleasures. They dismiss as laughable those who witness to the truth of God’s anger and punishment. New movements continue to arise for the purpose of overturning Christian discipline and order, and for stirring up children against their parents, citizens against their government, students against their teachers, and the poor against the rich (God Grant It, by C.F.W. Walther, page 25-26).
Any phrases ringing in your ears? [Maybe:] People act as though there is no God? …Many chase after bigger and better? …Secretly shameful sins are now openly praised? …Christians mocked? …Rebels rage against government? …Christian discipline crumbles? (Something else?)
Believe it or not, these words come from a devotion written in 1850. It almost sounds as though this Pastor lives in our world today! Yet, Jesus warns you that this would happen. There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). As this world races to its end and as eternity marches another day closer, the devil, in his frenzied fits of rage, will fight to detract many from God forever.
That means there is still work to do. Understand, God is not telling you to go out and solve society’s troubles. Neither does he want you to point a smug, self-righteous finger at your neighbor or the stranger in the grocery store. Words like these strike home first. Reflect on your calling in life and consider the people God has placed in your life. Remember, Training Preserves Life. Remove what is harmful. Learn what is good. Follow what is right.
And she said that to me. A middle-aged woman, standing in my driveway, facing the parsonage garage-door. (The Ten Commandments are painted on it). Her eyes locked onto the Fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” She turned to me, “My kids need to pay attention to that.”
She’s right— but I wonder, has she removed what is harmful?
You see, children are not born with this innate sense of right and wrong. They are not these “blank slates” that can choose to love God or choose to disobey him. Scripture plainly says: Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).
God’s Word shatters this idea that babies are born innocent, or that toddlers do not really understand the reason for their tirade, and that “kids will just be kids.” The sinful heart reveals itself with tirades and tantrums, with sass-back and disrespect. Toddlers understand the word: “No.” They cry because they do not want to hear it. Teenagers know drugs and drunkenness are wrong. So, they try to hide it from their parents. Even adults manipulate one another because they are selfish. God looks down on the world, sees every living soul, and concludes: All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:3). Not one elderly person. Not one kind parent. Not one newborn baby. Not even one.
That means someone must teach God’s ‘right’ and God’s ‘wrong.’ That means someone must teach when an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ That is reason for God’s command: Fathers… (and we could include father-figures, mothers and mother-figures) [bring up your child] in the training and instruction of the Lord. The purpose is to remove the sin that harmful. Sometimes that means you (and I) have to start with yourself first. Remove the faulty thoughts that are harmful.
God lists one: Fathers, do not exasperate your children… ‘Exasperating’ means to behave in a way that brings out anger from your child. To make your child resentful because of your actions.
If you wonder why a child is disobedient, a good question to ask is: Are they learning from me? Your child will believe God’s commandments are optional if you do not chastise them for disrespect or cursing or fighting or losing self-control. Your child will think faith in Jesus as Savior is unnecessary if he sees you in worship, but you do not urge him to also worship. Your child might know you worship, but hurt when you insult them and berate behavior. Instead of looking around at others, pointing a finger at their wild lifestyle, you (and I) have to examine our hearts first because your heart turns aside. It can become corrupt. It does not do the good God demands. Left unchecked, it can lead the child in your life to resent God.
So, God sends Jesus to remove what is harmful, to remove the ravaging effects of sin in you (and me). Jesus removes what is harmful by remaining without sin. When his disciples panic on a stormy sea, he rescues them. Not just that, but he even corrects their doubting faith. When James and John foolishly ask Jesus to destroy nonbelievers, he does not insult: “You idiots!” Rather, he teaches them that God’s love demands patience. When the Eleven cower for their lives Easter evening, Jesus does not appear with, “Cursed are you! See my hands and feet? I’m alive and you will suffer!” Instead he breathes out, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
Look at Jesus. See God treat him harshly on the cross. See Jesus carry your (and my) parental failures to the cross. See him rise and raise you forgiven. Jesus has removed harmful attitudes about parenting.
Jesus shows you how serious sin is. As you remember his work for you, you will remove harmful thinking. In its place, you will learn what is good.
What is good? To bring up [your child] in the training and instruction of the Lord. Who does this? You. Fathers and father-figures, God wants you to continually teach your child about Jesus. Parent-figures, God uses your roles and your relationships as ways to bring his Word to the ears and hearts of others.
He even tells you what to say. Instruct [them] in the Lord. That means, teach them what God teaches. Sometimes that learning includes, well, learning. The only way you will know what God calls ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is to read what God calls ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ As a [grand]parent, make time for family devotions; make this part of your routine. Spend a few minutes after dinner or right before shutting off the lights at night. Read a chapter in one of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Summarize the one simple truth Jesus (1) teaches or (2) reveals about himself. Then say a short prayer together. God has placed you in the life of a child so that this child may know their Savior.
Not only do you instruct, but you also train in the Lord. When a child veers away from what God calls ‘right,’ call them back.
Some of you have adult children. You brought them to catechism class to learn the teachings of the Bible. Yet, it can happen that catechism class appears as a classroom lecture that does not touch the heart. Point out the catechism is not mindless information. Instead, it brings out key teachings of Scripture. The best way to drive this home is to share how something you learned from the catechism still comforts you. Speak of God’s promises when issues arise. “God’s in control over governments” (Psalm 2:1-6). “We need to pray for guidance in conflict” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). “God has given us our money, our home, and our food. He gets the credit” (Psalm 145:15-16). By doing this, you are connecting everyday life to the promises God has laid out in the Bible.
Perhaps teenagers live at home. It’s an exciting time to watch them mature and form decisions for their own personal future. Yet, remember: teenagers tend to feel a sense of freedom to do the things they did not experience with you. So, if God is a part of your life, you can be sure the devil will tempt them to try life without God. (That is part of the reason why 30% of those under age 30 no longer have a home church.) As a Christian father, share your faith with your teen. Open yourself up, expressing how God fills you with comfort, when you needed him most, and the confidence you hold now with him.
Training Preserves Life. Physical exercise increases physical health. In the same way, time in the Word and opportunities to connect faith to everyday life increases spiritual health. You learn what is good. As a result, you follow what is right.
Do you see the role you have, fathers and father-figures, [grand]parents and parent-figures? When you train a child, you are laying a groundwork for the child to follow.
That proves to be a blessing for all involved. God commands: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Understand, God is not saying, “Obey because I will be sad if you are not.” What makes this command “right” is that it comes from God and is beneficial. Obey your parents because they share the Word of God Almighty. Obey your parents because you belong to God. Obey your parents because out of love for God, you want to do what he commands.
Those who Honor your father and mother…[have] that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” If you respect your authorities, they will not arrest you, throw you into prison or execute you. If you obey your spiritual leaders, you will not bring spiritual harm upon your soul. If you obey your parents you will not be stressed out when talking. You may receive financial help. You will receive advice and guidance. You will enjoy ease of communication. Training Preserves Life. Follow what is right.
As this world races to its end and as eternity marches another day closer, the devil, in his frenzied fits of rage, will fight to detract many from God forever. That happens when the family unit breaks down. When parents fail to teach the next generation of their God. When parents do not discipline their child as God expects. When children disobey God and reject his leaders. You do not have to look far to see proof of this happening today.
Remember, God does not tell you to go out and solve the world’s troubles. He tells you to start at home. Take a good look at your family. Is there somewhere you can grow? … Somewhere you can spend time with the Word of life? … Somewhere discipline is needed? …Is there a place to spend more time in devotion?
The purpose of that Christian family is to have all those parts work together so that all may reach their heavenly home. The way to do that is through the Word. He give us parents (and parent-figures) to speak and children to hear. Reflect on your calling in life and consider the people God has placed in your life. Training Preserves Life. Remove what is harmful. Learn what is good. Follow what is right.
Imposing stone columns surround you, soaring to incredible heights before interlocking together high above. Thick brick walls press in on your right and left, each one also towering well over a hundred feet above you. The polished granite floor under your feet glistens. Pieces of clear glass pack massive window openings, letting bright white unfiltered light to pour into this temple. A hundred feet ahead lies four steps rising up to an intricately carved altar. On this platform is planted a dominant royal throne. Music fills the air all around you, angelic voices blending together singing praises. Can you picture the scene?
If you can’t, just Google: “British royal wedding ceremony pictures” and drink in those exquisite details. White poufy flowers drape walls and dress the front. Children’s choirs stand to your right and left. Delicate hats rest on the heads of every royal lady. Shiny medals hang from finely pressed military coats and gowns flow from each guest. This is the sight of power and dominance and respect.
You get to stand in that grand temple. No, this is no royal wedding. You stand in far more powerful, far more dominant, far more glorious setting. You stand before the King of the Universe! …in his presence! …in a sight of brilliance and dominance! The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty! But how? He stands apart from sin.
Do you see that?
Look through the eyes of Isaiah the prophet. [T]he Lord [sits] seated on a throne… The Lord. Do know what that [name] means? Lord is not God’s first name like: Bob or George or Dick. [The name] Lord has a meaning; Lord credits God as One with authority, all-power, superiority; the One holding control over every single thing in the world with unsurpassed might. This is the God who rules the entire universe! This is the God before whom each individual must give account (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12)! This is the God who holds final judgment over your eternal future! And your feet remain planted just a few feet away.
Staring straight ahead, you only see the legs of his throne. Your eyes trace those legs up higher and higher; your head tilts back more and more, reminding you of just insignificant you are compared to him. [T]he train of his robe fill[s] the temple. Exquisite white linen sprawls across the polished floor, touching each wall, covering every square inch that you dare not step on these unsoiled garments.
Above him were seraphs… such unique angels that we know nothing more about them other than what Scripture says here. These angelic beings flash like flames of fire, showcasing the power and the purity found in this temple. Look up; see seraph after seraph after seraph fill the space above your head. [Each one has] six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” You sing the same song in the Common Service. Ho-ly, ho-ly, ho-ly Lord God of heav-en-ly hosts: heav’n and earth are full of your glory Yet, they do not prepare for Holy Communion. These seraphs trumpet a very truthful reality: God is holy. That means two things: (1) Holy: the Lord has no moral fault; he is perfect. (2) Holy: the Lord stands opposed to everything and everyone that is imperfect. Holy: because he is set apart from our sins.
Does that sound quite right? The puffed up, proud society in which you live boom: “Hey! Wait just a minute! Who is God that he should call my hate wrong? Who is God that he commands me how to treat my body? Who is God that he condemns my unbelief?” That proud human heart tears down Isaiah’s sight and replaces it with one where the human sits in the throne next to God— or, worse yet, in the throne over the Almighty.
Have you wandered into that arrogance? It comes out when you intentionally skip worship for the boat or for yard-work, but you cover over it with your self-understood excuse: “Well, God understands. I’m busy.” Never mind God commands your whole heart (Matthew 22:37); you can determine to give God part of your love. That proud heart smirks oh-so-smugly at harsh words meant to destroy. “Well, she made me angry.” “Dad needs to get with reality.” “I must exert power over my neighbor.” Never mind God expects words to build up (Matthew 5:22); you must have the authority to overthrow God’s command. That arrogant heart wraps an arm around God, calling him your buddy who understands why you can lose self-control, why it’s acceptable for you to neglect your parenting discipline, why it’s alright for you to create your own beliefs. Inside each of us is this heart which believes it sits on the throne of God. That it sits in authority over God. That you are free to live according to your rules. That God is honored by your presence.
Do you see who sits on the throne? Not you. Not me. Not the seraphim either. In fact, even the seraphim tremble at the sight. The ones already in heaven cannot even look at the face of God! So how can you (and I), mere mortals living in an unclean world approach God and live? The best we can is join with Isaiah, trembling, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
The LORD God Almighty is Holy, Holy, Holy. He stands apart from our sins. Yet, your
Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty cleanses you with his life.
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar… The altar. The place of sacrifice. The place where blameless animal after blameless animal sacrificed its life to remove sin.
Flying from the altar of forgiveness, the seraph touches [Isaiah’s] mouth [with that coal] and says, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” A holy God does not sweep Isaiah away into the very depths of hell. The God of patience and mercy cleanses him with his life.
Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty deals with you in the same patience and mercy. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16), the disciple John writes. God the Father sends his only Son into a life soiled with sin’s awful grime. The devil pushed pride before him. Jesus faces the pull to run away from the cross and live a cushy earthly life. Yet, he never does. He treasures the Word of the Holy God above all things— remaining the Holy One of God.
This Holy One, the One seated on this magnificent, towering throne steps down and humbles himself. Leaving heaven, he takes the form of a servant, allowing corrupt men to spit on him, punch his face, crush a mockery into his head, and nail him to a cross. God so loved you that he laid his one and only Son on the altar of the cross in order to cleanse you.
Jesus leaves his tomb and says: See… your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. Jesus bridges the gap between you and God; that’s what is meant by the word “atone:” Jesus makes you “at-one” with God. At your baptism the Triune God announces, “Look, this water and my Word has touched you: your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” At the altar, Jesus touches you with his body and blood, together with the bread and wine, and says: See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Jesus has removed the stained garments of arrogance and dressed you in splendid white robes. He has washed grimy pride away. He has cleansed an arrogant ego. He makes you (and me) acceptable to approach the Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty because his holy life has been used to cleanse you.
Now cleansed, your Triune God calls you to a holy life. Just look at Isaiah. Just moments earlier trembles at the sight of approaching a holy God, fearing his life would roar to a violent close. Yet, a merciful God sets him free from bondage to hell. Set free from threats of death, he is free to serve God with a willing heart and life. He heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah] said, “Here am I. Send me!” Touched by that forgiving love, he is transformed to share it with many others.
God may not have called you to be a minister or missionary. Yet, he has called you into a new way of living. Forgiven, restored, brought into his family, you can approach God with confidence.
Your singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy!” comes not from fear, but from hearts thriving on the forgiveness through a Triune God. You shout: “Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the LORD Almighty!” giving God credit for his perfection and him giving you that perfection for eternal life in heaven. You praise God as you read your Meditations devotions. You praise God as you study God’s Word in Bible class. You praise God as you take his Word into your hearts. You demonstrate proper love for God as you place him in the first-place spot of your hearts. His Word drowns out your words… and thoughts… and opinions. You are following the One who is Holy, Holy, Holy!
You bring your offerings to God. Gifts of money, of your time, and of your talents. You support a minister bringing God’s Word to your ears and heart— and to your friends and community. You offer God a beautiful space where he might reign and dwell. You serve him from a heart motivated by love. The Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has called you to a holy life.
On this Trinity Sunday, you stand between two halves of our church readings. From Advent (end-November) through Pentecost (mid-May), we study the life of Christ: his faultless birth, innocent living, and perfect life sacrificed, and triumphant resurrection. Now, after today, the focus shifts from the steps taken to save us to the teachings Jesus gives over his three-year ministry.
You are ready for this growth. Your Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God Almighty has ushered you into his grand temple. You look up to see the One high and exalted, seated on his magnificent throne. Yet, you do not fear. Through the blood of Jesus, the Father declares you forgiven. The Holy Spirit points at your baptism as evidence that you belong to God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God Almighty! He stands apart from sin. His life cleanses us. He calls us to a holy life.
This is it… This part right here. This 48-inch belt stopped me dead in my tracks just outside Saline, [Michigan]. There I am, coasting at 70-miles-per-hour down Interstate-75. Drove under an overpass, popped out the other side, and started up a slight incline. As I went uphill, my speedometer started slipping down. 70-miles-per-hour. 60. 40. 20. 0 [miles-per-hour]. No matter how hard my foot pressed the gas pedal, the car would not speed up. It sat there dead on the side of the freeway. Do you know what went wrong? Well, do you know what this is? A timing belt. (https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/symptoms-of-a-bad-or-failing-timing-belt)
Now, if you don’t know what a timing belt does, that’s alright; I didn’t know about this belt before that day either. The timing belt makes sure the pistons work in sync with the exhaust valves. The exhaust valves must remain shut when the fuel ignites. The explosion then pushes the piston down, ultimately transferring power to the wheels. Now, if the valves are open when the fuel ignites, the explosive power exits through the exhaust; the power is not transferred to the wheels.
Simply put, the timing belt makes sure the individual components of the engine work in sync.(https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070126214836AAiZREP&guccounter=1]) It does not matter if you have a full tank of gas or four brand new, fully inflated tires or the best oiled pistons. No timing belt, no movement. Have a timing belt, have movement.
This morning God highlights all the individual components that make up a Christian family. Then, he draws your attention to the one Person who links Christian relationships together. Lose sight of this Person and relationships strain. Set your focus on him and you gain motivation for many parts to work together. That’s why God says, See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
In Proverbs 31, God lists the many blessings you receive through a wife of noble character (31:10). What makes such a woman “noble” is her faith which clings to Jesus as Savior. God loved her and joined her to the Vine of Jesus Christ. Like a branch connected to a vine produces fruit, so this woman, connected to the Savior, produces fruits of faith.
Verse 26 reveals some of that fruit. It says: She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Now, this wisdom is not life-advice she created from her sense of fairness or from how she thinks the world functions. Real wisdom acknowledges the poisonous devastation sin wreaks on the world and how Christ is the antidote. A Christian mother-figure holds the wisdom to know that greed can drag hearts away from love for God (1 Timothy 6:10). So, she gives financial advice, but does so, recognizing that money is a treasure given from God to provide for everyday life. A Christian mother understands that inside a wild, rebellious child beats a heart fighting against God’s commandments. So, she disciplines in love because turning that sinful child from the error of his ways will save him from eternal death in hell (James 5:19-20). A Christian wife is patient with her spouse. No, not because this keeps matters light and the tensions down for one day. Rather, God calls her to love her spouse just as much as believers love Christ (Ephesians 5:22-23). You see, God highlights the fruits of faith bursting forth. Everything this Christian woman has learned about God gushes out in her words and actions.
She is this individual component working in a Christian family or even among the community of believers. Do recognize that this is the work God considers important? To speak wisdom? To give faithful instruction? To watch the affairs of the house? Ladies, when you remember this work is pleasing to God you find satisfaction. Men and children, when you recognize this is how God uses the Christian women in your life, you benefit. As Christian women faithfully carry out their individual callings, you See Christ in Your Christian Home. You see Christ giving instruction and blessing through the Christian women he sends.
So, do you see Christ? Do you see the many blessings God gives you through mothers or through your wife or through the motherly-figures in your life? Do you understand the ways you serve the body of Christ as a mother or wife or mother-figure? Or, have you sunk into the standards of the world?
The world tends to praise the spectacular, right? Social media exalts the mother who can balance the three sport schedules, two school-bands schedules, and the jam-packed school schedule. It’s as though somehow this is the “real” mother that every woman must aspire to. Maybe it’s even you that feel deep down inside that you can receive glorious praise through the achievements of your child. Doesn’t that just stroke the ego? You set out to be a mother of this world so that you can receive human praise.
The world tends to compare, right? If you can look more successful than others, then people praise you! Being mother becomes this badge of pride that allows you to feel better about your life. “Oh, did you see the trouble their son ran into? Our child would never do that!” Or, “My grandchildren are better behaved.” Husband-wife relationships become this sort of competition. “Our marriage is better. We don’t fight. You should learn from us.” You puff out your chest, so proud that you are better than everyone else.
The world tends to gorge on the bread of laziness, does it not? Instead of seeing how Christ uses you to serve each other, you instead see how you can serve yourself. So, you manipulate your spouse in order to gain more affection. You demonstrate little care about your child’s spiritual life because you figure “it’s up to them now.” You feel too advanced in life to encourage your Christian family.
Do you see what happens? When your attention drops from Christ, you lose this unity with each other. No longer do you find satisfaction in motherly roles. Rather, you behave in ways so that you can steal praise from God for yourself! Even Christian men and children may believe that only the spectacular and sensational are praiseworthy! When you (and I) set our attentions on achieving worldly goals, you fail to See Christ in Your Christian Home. You fail to see the great spiritual blessings you give and you receive.
Life then begins to feel like all these individual components spinning about at random, spinning for their own self-interest. When you feel out of sync with your Christian family, set your attentions back to Christ. He unites every individual person together.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Serve he did. He served the sick and diseased— even putting aside his time to help them. He exposed the error of his disciples so that they would not drift from faith. He does not boast about how well he knows Scripture. Rather, he teaches so that many may believe. Jesus sets his attention to the life he gives.
Jesus Christ serves you by suffering humiliation on the cross. He suffers as though he is proud. He suffers as though he is spiritually lazy. He suffers as though he selfishly protected his time. Jesus is left out of the home of heaven so that you can call heaven your home.
And you can. Jesus rose to announce his forgiveness. For the times you failed to meet his standard of being a Christian woman. For the times you criticized his gift of a mother or spouse. He forgives you. He rises into heaven, allowing you see where he has gone so that you can remember you are heading to heaven.
Stop and reflect on the many different roles you have within your family setting. Some of you are children; others are adult sons and daughters. Some of you are fathers and mothers; others are grandparents (and great-grandparents). Some of you are empty-nesters with adult children; others have children growing a little less reliant on you. Some of you are husbands and wives; others carry loads of life experience after decades of marriage. Some of you are young and single; others are older and single. No matter where you are in life, See Christ in Your Christian Home. See how God’s Word is shared Through the Christian women he sends. See how Christ’s love for you motivates your appreciation for his blessings. This comes out in the response of praise you give.
Her children arise and call her blessed… Pay attention to the order; praise comes after serving. A negligent mother cannot demand her child respect her. Mother-figures do not manipulate children and friends so that she can receive her selfish craving for praise. When Christian women faithfully serve their Christian family, they naturally reap praise.
Praise from whom? Children, you call your mother “blessed.” That is the highest praise you may give. You are acknowledging that she is God’s representative sent into your life in order to be a blessing to you. Mothers provide food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home for their child. God gives daily bread through the work of this woman. Mother-figures encourage children of a congregation to keep connected to God. They empathize with the struggles children face at school. God uses these Christian women to encourage you in your life of faith. When you thank the Christian women in your life, you are thanking God for blessing you through them. Even when children live ungrateful and do not praise, God sees the faithful work done for his honor.
Husbands, you also praise her. You approach your wife, your mother, the widows of your congregation, or the motherly-figures, and you praise them for their real beauty. As our proverb says: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting… People can cover up their real personalities. Physical attraction does not mean you really know someone. Real beauty is found in a woman who fears the Lord.
Love for God is the most priceless trait found in a Christian spouse. How many of you can thank God because your mother shared Jesus with you? How many of you husbands will sing in heaven because of your spouse? How many of you can point to Christian friends who loved God that they invited you to worship, invited you to Bible class, or encouraged you to remain strong in your Christian faith? God uses individual members of your family setting to bless you. This is how you See Christ in Your Christian Home. As a result, every Christian—child and men and women—give thanks to God for the blessings they receive.
As you look closer into the Christian home, you see all the individual components that make up a Christian family. No role is greater than another. Rather, your individual roles are different. When you examine how Christ uses you in your role, this body of believers work together to bring God’s blessings into their lives and to thank God for these blessings.
Set your focus on Christ. He links your relationships together. Set your attention on him and gain motivation for many parts to work together. See Christ in Your Christian Home. Through the Christian women he sends and Through the response of praise you give.
Lisa craved to be adopted. Every morning she opened her eyes, imagining waking up in her own bedroom with her own mother gently caressing her cheek and her own father warmly smiling in the doorway. She daydreamed sitting at the dinner table, recounting the events of her school-day to parents leaning in with excitement. She closed her eyes each night dreaming of a father pushing her on the backyard tree-swing while mom beamed with pride.
Then it happened. A soft voice floated through the air, “We’re thinking about adopting you.” Lisa looked up to see a blonde-haired woman wearing a flowered sundress standing in the doorway beside a clean-shaven man whose arm wrapped around her waist. “But, before we adopt you, we want to bring you home for a month,” she continued. “At the end of 30-days, we will make our decision.”
Can you imagine the emotions twisting through Lisa? She hugged both tightly, but made sure not to pinch them. She hopped out to the car with her bags, but still gently loaded them into the trunk. She gladly finished her chores, but anxiously wondered if her parents were satisfied. For 30 days she obeyed and respected and made sure not to be the cause of frustration or irritation. Only after day-30 would she know if her efforts were enough.
Another couple stood in her doorway. This time a firm declaration went out: “We have adopted you. You have become our family. You are one of us.” No trial period. No conditions. The papers were signed; the adoption finalized.
How do think Lisa responded to this second set of parents? She would obey them! She would respect them! She would love them! No, not because she fears rejection. Rather, she loves because she is set free from fear! She loves because she is accepted already! The conditions of Lisa’s adoption governs how she lives.
The same is true for you. The conditions of your adoption govern how you live. That is an important truth to remember as you live your Christian life. God sets your attention on the empty tomb. There you discover: The Resurrection Brings New Life. You have been born into victory. You have been born to overcome the world.
The resurrection really does change everything. Because Jesus lives, you also will live (John 14:19). The disciple John connects the events of the resurrection to your life now. Yet, before he ever tells you how you live, he starts by reminding you who you are. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God… Remember what the name “Christ” means. [It means] “Anointed One.” To “anoint” means to “set someone aside for a specific purpose or mission.” Jesus is not “set aside” to free the Jews from Roman rule. He is not appointed as a motivational Speaker with words to inspire you for a better earthly life. No, Jesus is “anointed” (or “set aside”) for the specific purpose of taking away your sins (John 1:29).
That is what Jesus comes to do for you— because without him, you (and I) are dead. The Bible says, You are conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). You cannot change that fact. If you are without sin— never hating, never lying, never gossiping, never holding resentment— if you are perfect, you have no fear of death. Yet, death comes to all because all sinned (Romans 5:12). You are dead by nature, doomed to eternal death in hell. Not just that, you are dead spiritually (Ephesians 2:1). You cannot live to please God. You cannot choose to come to faith by praying and inviting Jesus into your heart (John 15:16). The Bible makes it clear: Faith comes from hearing the message and the Holy Spirit creates faith in the heart (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5). Just like Lisa could not choose her parents, you (and I) cannot choose to come to faith. Without Jesus there is no eternal hope.
That is why John holds Jesus up high for all to see, as though saying, “Pay attention! Look! This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. See Jesus walk into the water of the Jordan River at his baptism. The heavens instantly rip open, the Holy Spirit comes down as a dove and God the Father trumpets: “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It’s as though a spotlight shines on Jesus, highlighting him as special. This man right here(!) comes from heaven. He is perfect. He is your payment, your Substitute for sin.
[Jesus] did not come by water only, but by water and blood. He not only lives a perfect life, but he gives a perfect life by his death on the cross. On Mount Calvary Roman soldiers crush thorns into his skull. Nails are pounded into his hands and feet. A soldier spears his side. As Jesus’ blood trickles down the cross, his life slowly trickles away until he dies. For three days he lies in the grave. Then on Easter, he rises from the dead. He appears to you saying, “The wages of sin has been stamped ‘Paid in Full!’ Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)
Jesus is the ‘Christ!’ He has been set aside for the specific purpose of adopting you into the family of God. His blood is the ink which frees you from the orphanage of hell. His perfect life are
the adoption papers that declare you his. He brings you up to God and says, “This is my Father—and now he is your Father too” (John 20:17). Jesus lays a hand on your shoulder saying, “My house has many rooms. I have your room prepared” (John 14:2-3).
What have you (or I) done to deserve this? If you look at the words you have used over this past week, if you honestly reflect on the selfish thoughts you had, if you admit the hurt of your actions, you realize you have done nothing. Jesus has done it all— free of charge!
The Resurrection Brings New Life. Keep looking back at the empty tomb and see that You have been born into victory. Because Jesus lives, you already have victory over death. You will not stay in the ground forever, you will rise immortal. You will not enter hell; you will enter heaven. [You] who believe that Jesus is the Christ [have been] born of God. God has brought you an entirely new way of life. Not just life to look forward to, but a new way of life now. You have been born to overcome the world.
That’s what John says. [F]or everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. The Bible often uses [the word] world as a reference to everything that stands against God. The “world” can refer to a proud, arrogant attitude. The “world” can refer to the greedy love for wealth in this life. The “world” can refer to adultery, murder, stealing, gossiping, hatred, love for anything that is not God— the actions non-Christians do not consider to be wrong (1 John 2:15-16). Remember who you are. You have been adopted into God’s family. Since you live with God, it means you live on the side of God. Since you live on the side of God, it means you stand opposed that which stands opposed to God; you stand against the world.
You have been born to overcome the world— to fight against sinful desires. Better yet, you now life a Christian life. But, what does that mean— a Christian life? The kneejerk reaction is to say, “Live a ‘good’ life?” Here’s the question: “What is a ‘good’ life?”
God does not leave it up to you (or me) to determine what a Christian life is or how it looks. He simply says: This is how we know that we love the children of God: (1) by loving God and (2) carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. A Christian life is obeying the Ten Commandments.
Before you set out by saying, “Alright! I can do it!” Remember your motivation for loving God. Little orphan Lisa obeys, respects, and loves her new parents. Why? Not because she must succeed in trial period. Rather, she loves because she is already accepted! Lisa has nothing to earn or prove. Lisa lives out of thanks for her new parents. In the same way, you (and I) love God’s commands. You have nothing to prove to God. You are not trying to earn his love; you already possess it. You are not trying to make sure you go to heaven; you already have a room there. You are set free from the fear of rejection. This is why John points you to the empty tomb first. Since (1) you already are made a child of God by faith, (2) you are free to live as a child of God by faith.
So, you have been born into a new life which overcomes the world. No longer is life about fighting to get more money. You already have heaven! What more is there to gain? So, you give generous offerings to God because God has been generous to you. No longer must you fight to gain more popularity! God calls you “His.” What better title is there? None! So, you are kind and patient to those around you. You encourage the depressed. You let others go first. You put the needs of [grand]kids ahead of your schedules. No longer do you hold onto grudges in order to hold onto power over another. God holds no grudge against you. So, you work to reconcile with your family, your child, your friend. You have been born to overcome the world. See what Jesus has made you. See how you live on his side. As a result, you will naturally stand out from those who stand against God.
The conditions of your adoption govern the way you live. Remember little orphan Lisa. Her first set of parents demand that she earns their love. She cannot do that. Yes, she would obey. She would love them. Yet, she would never know if it was enough. She would live in constant fear. Yet, being chosen by the second parents motivates her to an entirely new way of living. She loves because she is set free from fear! She loves because she is accepted!
My friends, Easter Day continues every day. Jesus rose from the dead once— and the results continue on. As you ponder how to live a Christian life, first set your attention back on the empty tomb. It all starts there. Jesus has adopted you into God’s family. No trial period. No conditions. The papers are signed with the life and blood of Jesus. The adoption is final.
So, you are set free for life. You live free to serve and others. No, not because you must, but because you already have everything. The Resurrection Brings New Life. You have been born into victory. You have been born to overcome the world.
“She’s not coming back.” That’s what one church councilman said to rest of the councilmen (myself included). She was not a member of the congregation, but certainly was under its spiritual care. She worshipped there quite regularly for years. In fact, she had even studied the congregation’s Bible-based teachings with the Pastor. Now, after many years spent in worship, after creating many friendships, after spending time in the Word, she was not coming back. Why? Let me put it in her words: Someone from the congregation told her ‘that she must give a larger offering.’
I wish this was the only time I heard of such things happening in a congregation. The truth is, each of you is different. Look around. Some are elderly; others young. Some have families; others are single. Some of you are lifelong Christians; others pretty new to the Christian faith. Some work; others do not. Some have physical handicaps and others have no troubles with their health or body. Each of you is different. Each of you are at a different stage in life. Each of you have different personal preferences.
Those are important factors to remember when you gather for worship. After all, what instrument do you use in worship? A piano? …An organ? …A computer? How should children behave in worship? Where should people sit? How should guests who sit next to you act? Should you wear a suit or jeans? …a dress or slacks? These matters seem so trivial and yet disagreement on these matters have pushed people away from the Savior.
The question is not: How do you reach agreement on these things? Rather: How do you reach agreement so that everyone may grow closer to Jesus?
Well, by gathering around the one thing that unites you all together: The Gospel. Only The Gospel Frees You from obligations of the Law and it frees you to serve all with the gospel.
Over the past few weeks we’ve touched on a Bible reality called: “Christian Freedom.” This morning we’ll dig into (1) what “Christian freedom” is and (2) what it means for you.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19 you read: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. That verse sounds a little contradictory, doesn’t it? The man speaking— the great missionary-Pastor Paul— says that he is both a free man and a slave (two things that seemingly cannot exist at the same time). Yet, Paul is not talking about the civil freedoms he enjoys as a Roman citizen. Rather, he describes the freedom that he possesses as a Christian. Freedom from what? From the stinging, bitter penalty that comes from breaking God’s Law.
You see, when God gave his Ten Commandments, he laid down his moral expectations for all people: Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). It sounds simple enough to do, or at least, it’s something you want to do. And yet, you reflect on your words and realize that you do not respect your friends like you should. You reflect on the thoughts racing through your mind and recognize that you love money, your status, the comforts of home more than you love the One who gave them all. You (and I) may want to love God, but we do not. We cannot. Our hearts resist (Romans 8:7).
God makes it clear: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). The wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23; see also Galatians 3:10). When you break a single command of God, you become a slave; you are enslaved to its penalty. You are not free.
Yet, Jesus came to do what you and I could not: obey God’s Law perfectly. The devil tempts Jesus with wealth, kingdoms, and status, and Jesus orders: ‘Go away!’ (Matthew 4:1-10). Although he is true God, as true man Jesus humbles himself to obey his parents (Luke 2:51). When Jesus runs into people who made a mess of their lives, he does not gossip or proudly look down on them, but rather ministers to their heart’s real need (for example, John 4:5-26). You see, Jesus comes to do what you (and I) cannot: obey God’s Law perfectly (Matthew 5:17). To obey it in your (and my) place.
Jesus carries no moral fault, no blemishes. He chooses to take your place under God’s death sentence. Jesus takes on our sin and suffers our penalty of death (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that you (and I) never will. His resurrection from the dead declares that he has wiped your (and my) record against God clean. Jesus sets you free from the penalty of death.
That is gospel truth. Remember what the word ‘gospel’ means. ‘Gospel’ simply means: good news. The gospel specifically proclaims the ‘good news’ that Jesus endures your penalty for breaking God’s law. The gospel tells you that Jesus has set you free from obligations of the Law. No longer do we follow the Ten Commandments in order to earn eternal life. That’s not the way you enter heaven! Faith in Jesus as the Savior who lived, died, and rose for you gets you into heaven! So, you follow the Ten Commandments out of love for everything God has done for you. This is how you live a God-pleasing life.
That’s why Paul says: I am free… I am free from the enslaving penalty of the Law. I am free from the fear spending life in hell. I am free from the soul-crushing guilt that comes every time I fail to match up to God. I free because I see the Savior who forgives.
This is ‘good news.’ This is the Gospel that Frees You from obligations of the Law. The Gospel that Frees You to serve others with it.
So, missionary-Pastor Paul says: Though I am free and belong to no man… even though God has not handed down specific commands on what I eat or how I dress or what I do in my free-time, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible. This is the Christian’s number one priority: to share the ‘good news’ [gospel] of Jesus with all people.
Paul brings the gospel by meeting specific needs of specific groups. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. Paul adopts Jewish customs. When he preaches to those with Jewish backgrounds, he presents himself a certain way. He stays away from pork and eats only kosher foods. He uses their Old Testament Bibles to point to Jesus.
Now, he does not have to. He could eat hotdogs and skip over the teachings of Moses and the prophets—he could because God has given no New Testament laws on these things. Paul is free, but if he behaves carelessly, he may lose his Jewish audience. Some of the Jews may not know why they could eat pork. Others may be offended if Paul appears to disrespect Old Testament prophecy. And so, Paul acts like a Jew so that he has an opportunity to teach Jesus and grow them in Christian living.
God has not placed orders as to how you worship. He makes no mention of the use of organs, pianos, drums, guitars, or any other instrument. He does not command that you must use the Common Service or the Service of the Word in worship (any other service being called ‘sinful.’) God does not demand the Pastor wear a white robe or black or any robe. God does not even demand that the Pastor stand behind a pulpit when preaching.
Yet, to the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To Christians gathered here, become like them to win them, to be a blessing to their faith, not a burden. Even though you and I are free to worship as we please, we still embrace rich worship practices. Why? Because many here already appreciate our rich worship practices. For me to stand up and preach walking around in a suit (or jeans!) is not wrong. Yet, if I act without explaining to others this freedom they have, I can hurt them spiritually. If I act without listening to them and their appreciate for what we already have, I can drive them away from Christ!
So, even though I may prefer one style of worship or I prefer to wear something else, for the sake of others I lay aside my freedom. I choose to not make us of my wishes and my wants so that I do not damage the faith of my fellow believers.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law. Paul even ministers to the non-Jews, the Gentiles. They did not grow up with the Law of Moses. They did not have certain eating rules or worship days or civil laws. (They did have God’s commandments inscribed on their hearts.) In short, Gentiles act differently from the Jews. They are not circumcised. They eat any kind of meat. Some are uneducated with Jewish customs. Yet, Paul serves the Gentiles by adopting their customs and practices. He does not push a kosher diet on them. He does not force them to get circumcised. Paul enslaves himself to Gentile customs so that he may have an opportunity to share the Word with them.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law. Those who worship alongside you may not act like you. The automatic reflex for us is to make a new law. We want to force our wants on others. To make a certain behavior “right” and a certain “wrong.” How many stories have you heard of a congregational member asking someone to “get out of their pew?” How many demand that those around them be quiet instead of moving to another seat? How many have turned around and stared down the parent of a crying child— all because that “noise” was unwanted? How many have complained that shirt, ties, and dresses are the only “right” clothing for worship and anything else is inappropriate?
And you may not have seen those troubling matters here. Great! What blessing! And yet, those are true stories I have heard in my brief ministry. This same mindset of creating rules for people to act like us is a constant temptation. In short, we want to make laws even though Jesus sets us free from laws. Jesus sets us free for our eternal benefit and we want to enslave others for our selfish benefit.
In humble, selfless love, Jesus meets your needs. Your selfishness. Your needless insecurity. Your desire to control. He meets them all and sets you free from the hell they deserve. That is good news. That is the Gospel which Sets You Free—free to serve it to others.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law. The truth is, God has not made commands for how people act in worship. God has only given a guiding principle: Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).
So, you are free to determine the atmosphere of your worship, but you may need to set aside your preferences in order to meet the unique needs of others. For the sake of younger families, it may mean that you move so that you can hear the message with greater ease and so that younger families can quickly and quietly step out of the sanctuary. For the sake of the elderly, it may means that you take into account their needs— recognizing if your child (or your coughing, etc.) is getting uncontrollably disruptive, for their sakes, you lay aside your freedom and address the issue. Imitating Christ-like humility, I put my needs below the needs of others. Why? I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
This is tough. To be honest, it’s tough because of the sinful nature inside each of us, a sinful nature that wants you and your needs placed ahead of the needs of everyone else. Yet, to let this selfishness go unchecked can wreak havoc among you fellow Christians.
Each of you is different. Some are elderly; others young. Some have families; others are single. Some of you are lifelong Christians; others pretty new to the Christian faith. Some work; others do not. Some have physical handicaps and others have no troubles with their health or body. Each of you is different. Each of you are at a different stage in life. Each of you have different personal preferences. How do you meet those needs?
By gathering around the one thing that unites you all together: The Gospel. The good news that you are set free from obligations of the Law. The good news you get to serve to all people. The good news that each of you gather together around one Lord and one Christ and that each of you get to grow in this Christ. So, go. Live in harmony with one another. Serve your Lord in gladness. Because The Gospel Frees You from obligations of the Law and it frees you to serve all with the gospel.