Monday, June 12, 2017

I Believe in One True God (A sermon based on Romans 8:14-17)

There is one God. That God has three persons. That doesn't make sense, but we know it's true because God's Word says it's true. That's the doctrine of the Trinity. We know that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. We also know that there are not three gods, but one God. But... so what? What does this mean for us? It means everything! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Romans 8:14-17 and see the very practical nature of this doctrine that gives us our identity and gives us so much comfort...

I Believe in One True God

A sermon based on Romans 8:14-17

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Pentecost 2B

 

There is one God. But there are three persons. The Father is God. The Son, Jesus, is God. The Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Or to put it another way…

"We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.  For each person—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—is distinct, but the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. 

"What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit.  The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated;  the Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite;  the Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal; yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite."

That's from the Athanasian Creed which describes the Triune God. We know the doctrine (even though we can't fully understand it). There are three persons (tri). But there is one God (une). That's doctrinally sound according to the Word of God. But… so what? Why do we set aside a Sunday in the church year for a doctrine? We don't have "Predestination Sunday" or "Verbal Inspiration Sunday." So why "Trinity Sunday"?

Well, as we celebrate Trinity Sunday we look at the practical side of this doctrine of the Trinity. We see who we are because of what our Triune God has done for us and continues to do. Today, we boldly confess that "I Believe in One True God." We believe in the Holy Spirit who set us free and leads us still. We believe in the Father who sent us his Son to make us his children now. We believe in Jesus Christ who became our brother that we might share in his inheritance.

Our text for consideration this Trinity Sunday is from Romans 8:14-17…

 

14 Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

What has God done for you? Well, there's almost too much in this text to cover it all! What hasn't he done?!

For starters, we believe in the Holy Spirit who set us free. Can you imagine an enemy nation attacking Alaska and in a shocking victory, they haul us all off and lock us up in their prison camps? With no hope of ever seeing your family again, of just endless days of forced manual labor, with endless nights of physical and mental torture, we would live in constant fear of the merciless enemy.

But then can you imagine seeing special ops forces break into the encampment and after killing every one of your captors, telling you to stand away from the door, before they break it down and set you free? What joy would be ours! Free at last from the enemy that would keep us living in fear!

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship."

You're not a slave anymore. You're set free! Free from sin! Free from guilt! Free from shame! Free to live for God as his dearly loved child.

For, we believe in God the Father who has made you his very own. "You received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." You haven't just been freed from prison, but even more, you've been adopted!

Now imagine the prisoner set free from the enemy by that special ops team was an orphan who's parents had been killed in the war. I'm sure it would be great that he would be free, but now what? Who would take care of him? Who would provide for him? You don't have to have such a worry, becaue the Father promises that you are his dearly loved child. He loves you so much he adopted you as his own.

And how did he accomplish that? He signed your adoption papers with the blood of his own Son. We believe in the Father who sent his Son to die for us to make us his own children.

And finally, we believe in Jesus Christ, who became our brother to rescue us. He was the special ops team! How did he do it? Paul only alludes to it in these verses when he mentions, "his sufferings…" But you know what he's talking about. Jesus willingly took our sin on himself to suffer death and hell on a cross to rescue us from death and hell for eternity. And he's promised us an eternal inheritance in heaven that can never spoil or fade!

What has God done for you? What hasn't he done?! The Triune God has done everything! God the Spirit set you free! God the Father adopted you as his own! God the Son rescued you from sin, death, and hell, and consequently from all fear! He's won heaven itself for you! Do you see why the doctrine of the Trinity is such a special doctrine? Do you see why we set aside a day to celebrate the love of the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

And how do we respond to such wonderful truths? Well… Not well. Having been freed, we climb back into our comfortable cells. We wallow in the filth of sin again. Having been made sons and daughters of God, we act like he's a stranger as we reject his will and his ways. Having been given an eternal inheritance, we still prefer the shiny trinkets of this life, as worthless as they are in comparison to the eternal riches that are ours, and we chase after them. Our schedules and our budgets prove our priorities. We show not just apathy, but utter contempt to the things our Triune God has done for us.

And as the verse right before our text says, "If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die…" That's what we deserve: Instant death, right now, followed by an eternity of death, separated from God forever in hell. That's what you deserve. That's what I deserve.

But we don't get what we deserve because of our Triune God. What he did for us, he still does. The Holy Spirit still sets us free from the prison of guilt and shame by the powerful words of the Gospel, by the absolution you heard earlier this morning, by the promise of sins forgiven you hear right now. The Father still calls you his dearly loved child whom he loves even after you misbehave and run away from him. He still calls you his own. The Son still promises you the inheritance of heaven that he won for you as your big brother. And he will do all he can to rescue you from this world and take you to be with him there. So you are forgiven. You are free! You are a dearly loved son or daughter of God! You have Jesus as your big brother! You are a part of God's family! You have an inheritance in heaven!

Now there's only one proper response: "We have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it… but… by the Spirit… [to] put to death the misdeeds of the body…" (Romans 8:12-13) So let's respond well. Let's live well, according to the Spirit and the will of God he's revealed in the Word.

And know that you're not alone in this. The Spirit will lead us. So be led by the Holy Spirit. For "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." Listen to what he says to you in the Word. Which means you need to hear and read the Word. There he will guide you in a life of thanksgiving to God.

The Father will help us whenever we pray for help. Whenever, "We cry, 'Abba, Father.'" You can be certain that the one who sent his Son to death and hell to make us his own children, will certainly help us when we ask for help to live according to his will!

And the Son who went to the cross to suffer hell to rescue us from it, will certainly be with us and help us as, "we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

There is one God. But there are three persons. The Father is God. The Son, Jesus, is God. The Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father. This is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. But it's not just some dry, stuffy doctrine to keep in your head. It is a glorious truth that gives you your identity: Led by the Spirit, a child of the Father, an heir of the eternal glory the Son won for you. Now, go live for him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the name of our Triune God, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Look What He Left Behind (A sermon based on Ephesians 4:7-16)

Ever leave something behind when you travel? Forget a phone charger with your host or leave some clothes in the hotel room? When Jesus visited earth and then left at his ascension, he left some things behind, not on purpose, but as gifts he gave to us. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ephesians 4:7-16 and look what he left behind...

Look What He Left Behind

A sermon based on Ephesians 4:7-16

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 – Ascension Sunday

 

It's quite alarming, really: How high the divorce rate is… among socks. J

It's that time of year again—summer on the Kenai—or as we know it, "Tourist Season." For the Guenthers that means a whole lot of house guests between now and mid-August. And with the guests coming and going it's almost inevitable that some of them leave something behind. That's where we end up with divorced socks—one of a pair that we never bought left behind at our house while it's ex travels north perhaps to travel thousands of miles south so the two will never meet again. We've had favorite toys left behind. We've had fishing gear left behind. We've had boots and coats with no discernable owner to sit in our garage for a year or two before we finally donate the lost items.

Of course, sometimes our guests leave something behind on purpose: They leave behind a card expressing their gratitude. For a longer stay, they'll sometimes leave behind cash or a gift card to restock the fridge they helped empty. Or they'll leave behind a bottle of wine to express their thanks to us, their hosts.

Jesus was like a tourist in a sense. He came to visit this earth as a guest for a while. Never leaving an area the size of the Peninsula but once (heading to Egypt as a child—about as far as it is from here to Anchorage), he relied on the hospitality of others most of the time. But when his time here was done, when it was time for him to leave, he didn't take everything with him but left gifts behind.

This morning as we celebrate Jesus' ascension, we pause to look at what he left behind. He left us his victory. He left us his grace. He left us gifts of pastors and teachers. He left us his Word.

 

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."

9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

Can you imagine if one of our guests from Wisconsin Lutheran College placed a thank you note on the kitchen table this morning and I walked over there, picked it up, and tore it in half and tossed it in the garbage saying, "Yeah, I don't want to read that. I don't care what you have to say." How rude! How thoughtless! That guest would rightly think I was a jerk and a terrible host.

But in a certain sense, isn't that we do to Jesus with his gifts? He gives us grace to forgive us, but we would often rather wallow in our sin. He gives us his Word to strengthen our faith and help us to grow up, but we'd rather crush candy or binge watch Netflix than read it. He gives us pastors and teachers that we disrespect and neglect. He gives us opportunities to serve and work to do and we say, "Yeah, I don't really want to do that. I don't care what you have to say."

When Jesus came to visit us, descending here to the lower, earthly regions from heaven itself, we were terrible hosts. We neglected him. We mistreated him. We killed him. And I say "we" because we are included in the humanity that still mistreats him, that sins against him, that neglects and mistreats the gifts he left behind. And we do it right in front of him since he "fills the whole universe," and there is nowhere where he is not.

And of course, if a guest left me a gift certificate and I tore up the envelope that held it right in front of them, I would rightly forfeit the gift and lose it! And that's what we all deserve from God: to lose the gifts he gives for our infantile and immature sins and for our rebellion against him.

"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it…" Instead of getting what we deserve, we get grace. We get God's undeserved love and the gifts that express it.

The first gift is the victory he won for us by his work here on earth: "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."

In ancient times when a conquering general returned home, a parade would be thrown in his honor. His enemies would be paraded through the streets in a cage to declare his dominance over them and his total victory. And the spoils of war would be tossed to the people who came out to the parade. Christ's ascension demonstrates his victory. He could ascend back to heaven because his work on earth was complete. That work? To be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

"What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?"

Jesus left his heavenly home to live among us in these lower, earthly regions. He lived as a guest here, that he might keep all of the "house rules" that we could not. He lived a perfect life in our place and took our sin on himself. And he paid for every one of them. Talk about our conquering hero! And his ascension proves that the work is done. We are forgiven! We have peace with God! What a wonderful gift!

 

But what is our ascended Savior doing now? Did he ascend just to vacation and take life easy now that his work is done. No. Jesus is still at work ruling over all things for our eternal good. And he can do it perfectly because he is God and, "He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe." You can trust that he is ruling all things everywhere for our good. What a wonderful gift!

 

What else did he leave behind as "parting gifts" when he returned to heaven? "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…"

I admit, it's a bit awkward for me to preach on this verse and in essence tell you that "I am God's gift to you." But when I reflect on the pastors who baptized, taught, and confirmed me, who absolved me of my sin and strengthened me in my faith… when I think of the teachers who patiently taught me not just to read and write, but to read the Word and write a sermon, well… I have no trouble saying that called workers are God's gift to his church. And what a good encouragement Paul gives to remember that they are gifts our ascended Savior left behind.

After all, if Jesus were still walking the earth, though I'm certain he would be a better preacher and teacher than me or any called worker I know, how many people could you pack into a synagogue in Israel? But by leaving earth and by leaving apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teacher behind, the Gospel can get around the globe like some reverse virus healing spreading to heal souls everywhere! What wonderful gifts God has left his church!

 

The next gift he left behind is his Word of truth, meant to strengthen us and mature us to keep us in the faith and to equip us to share the faith. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Speaking the truth (that is, the Word of God) in love, we mature. We grow up. And we strong to defend the Kingdom and to extend the Kingdom.

 

It would be odd if I decided to use the socks left behind at our house. That would just be weird. But it would be equally odd if I didn't use the gift cards or enjoy the bottle of wine left behind with the intention that I do use them—if I just let them sit and collect dust.

So, dear friends, let's use the gifts that Jesus left behind for us to use. First, rejoice in the victory that our Savior won for us—that in spite of the way we've neglected and rejected his gifts, he's forgiven us in Christ. His ascension proves that that work is done! Next, rejoice that he is filling the whole universe and working all things for our eternal good.  Then thank him for the gift of pastors and teachers. Come to worship and Bible class, pay attention to the devotions and chapel services, and honor those servants of Christ. Maybe even write a thank you note to the pastor that baptized or confirmed you or the teacher who helped you grow in your faith. Let them know what a gift from God that they are. And finally, be in the Word every day. Read a Meditations devotion or a chapter of your Bible and get that Word of truth that you might, "grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ…"

And as we do, we will grow and build ourselves up in love as we each of us do our work for him who lived and died for us and for our salvation, who rose and ascended into heave to prove that our victory is complete, who left such wonderful gifts behind for us to use. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Easter Means… We Are Loved and We Love (A sermon based on 1 John 4:7-11, 19-21)

"All you need is love," the Beatles famously sang. And, in a certain sense, they were right. All we need is God's love. His love in action which sacrificed his own Son to rescue us from the hell we deserve for our lovelessness is all-sufficient. Now all we need is to love God in return and to do that by loving each other in action. We can't help but love God and neighbor in response to God's love for us. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on 1 John 4:7-11, 19-21 and rejoice in God's love for you and be renewed in your zeal to love in return! 

Easter Means…

We Are Loved and We Love

A sermon based on 1 John 4:7-11, 19-21

Sunday, May 21, 2017 – Easter 6B

 

Let's play a game: "Name that Tune." I'll play a song. You name the title and the artist. Are you ready?

  • "I Would Do Anything for Love" (Meatloaf)
  • "This Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Queen)
  • "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (Stevie Wonder)
  • "Can't Help Falling in Love" (Elvis)
  • "I Will Always Love You" (Whitney Houston)
  • "All You Need Is Love" (Beatles)

How many other songs aren't there written about love? If you're young and hopeful, don't you love it? If you've been single for a while, aren't you sick of it?! If you're married, don't you wish your marriage still had that passion where all you did was sing about your love?! If you have teens, are you ready for it? At times it seems to consume our culture as if it's the only thing worth pursuing, this crazy little thing called love!

Well, this morning, I'm here to tell you that it is. Love is the only thing worth pursuing. But of course, I don't mean it in the way the songs of pop culture do. I mean it in the way the Bible does. For starters, God's love is the only thing worth pursuing. It's the only thing that will matter at all a hundred years from now. But of course, we don't really have to pursue it. We are loved by God, without our effort, for Christ's sake—because of the great love he showed us in giving his life for us. But now, in thanks to him, the only thing worth pursuing is loving our neighbor for Jesus' sake. Our text for consideration this morning is from the great "love letter" of God of 1 John. Today we consider chapter 4, verses 7-11 and 19-21…

 

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

Love comes from God. He is the source of love. In fact, he is love. That is all he ever does or thinks about is doing for others, serving them, giving to them. He is the opposite of selfish. And so, God cannot tolerate unloving or selfish actions, unloving or selfish words, unloving or selfish thoughts.

Friends, do love God? Do you really? John would challenge, "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar." If you claim to love God, do you act like it? Do you show your love to God by the way you love your brother? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? Your friend? Do you go out of your way to serve others, not so that you can get something out of them (that's selfish and unloving), not so that you can feel good about how good you are (that's selfish and unloving), not so that you can feel that God will love you more (that's manipulative, selfish and unloving), but only out of a desire to do what's best for them?

In 1 Corinthians 13(:4-7) this is how God defines love: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

So, how well have you loved? Have you been patient with your kids or your parents? Have you been kind to your friends and your co-workers? Have you envied others and what they have? Have you boasted in what you have? Have you been proud? Rude? Self-seeking? We all have been, haven't we? Have you kept no record of wrongs, but eagerly forgiven everyone who's hurt you? It doesn't take much reflection to see how loveless we've been. It doesn't take much to see that we who claim to love God are big fat liars.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love… If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

And for our loveless ways, we deserve anything but to be loved by God. We deserve to be his enemies, for that's what we've declared ourselves to be by our loveless acts, our loveless words, our loveless thoughts. We deserve to be hated by God, divorced from him, and forever banned from his presence in hell.

But, "God is love." God isn't just loving. He is love. He is the very definition of selfless service to others, of choosing to be loving when there is no reason to be so in the object of the loved. You and I are loved by God even though we don't deserve to be in any way whatsoever. And as love must show itself in action, so God showed his love in acting to save you and me.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  

I like you guys. I really do. But I don't think I would ever hurt—let alone torture—one of my four sons to help any of you out. I don't love you that much. I love them more. But God loves you so much that he would not just hurt, not just torture, but damn his Son—and not one of four, but his only Son, and not an imperfect, sinful naughty son, but his perfect, always-obedient, always-loving, sinless Son. And he this because he loved you that much!

And Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to go through it all. To borrow a phrase from Meatloaf, "He would do anything for love. He'd run right into hell and back. And that's a fact." In fact, that's what he did do.

God sent his as an atoning sacrifice—placing on him all the blame, all the guilt, all the shame, that you and I deserve for our loveless thoughts, words, and actions and damning to hell on the cross for all of our sin. Jesus willingly endured that hell and died for our sins and came back from the dead on Easter morning that we might be right with God, that we might live through him.

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

And so Easter—the proof that our sins are forgiven—means that we are loved. And that love will never end. To borrow a phrase from Whitney Houston, "He will aaaaaall-always love you!" You don't need to love God first to gain his love. You don't need to behave or clean up your act. He loved us first. And to borrow a phrase from the Beatles, "All we need is love;" his love for us, demonstrated on the cross and in the empty tomb.

But this love, this passionate zeal to do anything to rescue us, to save us, to make us his own, to bring us into his home… this love changes the way we feel about God. We can't help it. To borrow a phrase from Elvis, "We… can't… help… falling in love… with… him." "We love because he first loved us." Because of all he's done for us we can't help but love him in return. And we can't love God without loving his kids, that is… everyone.

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…"

"Love God and love your neighbor." That's not just a concise summary of the two tables of God's law, it's also a progression of thought. It's not an imperative: "This is what you should do." It's an indicative: "This is what Christians do." If you love God, you will love your neighbor too. We do love God, and so we do love our neighbor. Love must show itself in action. We must love our neighbor.

And this isn't must like, "you must do this or else," but in the sense that "a human must breathe," "a spruce tree must make spruce cones," "a dog must bark," and "a Christian must love." While it was in our sinful nature to love no one but ourselves, it's now in our restored Christian nature, in our "new man," to show love to one another. That's just what Christians do. Beloved, love. That's not a command, but a statement of fact. Those who are loved by someone love back. Those who are beloved by God, loved by him, love back. And we love each other. Not a love of feelings or emotions alone, but a love of action.

What does that look like? Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 13(:4-7). Because God has been so patient with us, we are patient with each other. Because God has shown such kindness to us in his Son, we are eager to be kind to one another. Because we know we have all we need in Christ, we don't envy the blessings of others. Because we know that all we have is by God's grace, we don't boast and know there's no room to be proud. We're not rude, but knowing how God sacrificed himself for us, we're no longer self-seeking, but look for ways to serve. Seeing how God doesn't grow angry with us, but forgives, we too are slow to anger and keep no record of wrongs. In short, "We love because he first loved us." Easter means that we are loved and that we, in turn, love others.

I'm not sure it's this is what the Beatles mean, but it is true that, "All you need is love." All you need is God's love and you are forgiven, redeemed, and destined for the glory of heaven. Now all we need is love: to love God for the way he first loved us, and to love each other in thanks.  In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

​Easter Means​ We Are Confident, Not Arrogant (A sermon based on 1 John 3:18-24)

Are you super confident in all that you do? Do you wish you could be? But be careful! There's a fine line between confidence (which attracts) and arrogance (which repels). How do we find the fine line between the two? God's Word helps us do that: The law strips of all arrogance when we see how we've failed to be loving to God and others. But the gospel fills us with confidence when we see that our status before God doesn't depend on our love, but on his. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on 1 John 3:18-24 and be filled with confidence!

​Easter Means...​

We Are Confident, Not Arrogant

A sermon based on 1 John 3:18-24

Sunday, May 14th, 2017 – Easter 5B (Mothers' Day)

 

Arthur Herbert doesn't seem like a very cool name, does it? Yet, in the early 80's it seemed like there was no one cooler than Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, more commonly known simply as Fonzie in the sitcom Happy Days. Played by Henry Winkler, the Fonz had a special charm. He always had a way with the ladies. He could somehow get a car to start or a jukebox to change the tune with a bump of the elbow or a snap of the fingers. And he always appeared cool and confident no matter.

Do you know anyone with confidence like that? Do you have confidence like that? I believe that when people are looking for a date or a mate, an employee or just a friend, that such confidence is magnetic. If someone is always nervously looking down at their feet, afraid to make eye contact as if to say, "I'm kind of a loser," why shouldn't we believe them?

But on the flip side, there's a fine line between confident and arrogant, isn't there? When people are looking for a date or a mate, an employee or just a friend, arrogance repels. If someone comes across as if they know the answer to every question in the world, as if they never would need help from you, and would never listen to a word of correction or suggestion for improvement, well, then why bother? Why waste your time with them since they clearly don't need a relationship with you.

So how do we find that fine line between confidence and arrogance and live in that comfortable, empowering zone? How can we be confident without being arrogant? The answer lies on God's Word. The apostle John was brimming with a confidence that would have put Fonzie to shame. And yet, he never came across as arrogant in what he wrote. And he wants you and me to have that same confidence without arrogance. Our text is found in 1 John 3:18-24…

 

18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

 

I am absolutely confident… that you and I have failed God. What does he ask of us in his Word? John keeps coming back to it again and again in his Gospel and all of his epistles. It's a simple concept, though it's not easy. It's simple in that it's not very complex. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. But it's not easy… in fact, none of us can actually do it. What does God ask of us? Simple: Love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love one another. Love others just as Jesus has loved you. Love, not "with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

Feeling pretty confident that you've done that? Always? Have you sometimes told your spouse that you love them only to treat them in a pretty loveless way that same day? Have you told your kids that you love them only to snap at them in impatience? Have you told your parents that you love them only to be blatantly disrespectful a few minutes later? That's loving with words and tongue, but not with actions or truth. Have you always loved others more than you love yourself? Have you, "Love[d] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength"? (Mark 12:30) Or have you told God that you love him only to selfishly ignore what he asks you to do, loving even him with words and tongue but not with actions? Yeah… me too.

You see, there isn't much room for arrogance anymore is there? The test that God through John gives us is simple: Love perfectly all the time. And we all have failed miserably. This, then, is the cure for arrogance: To look again into God's law and see his holy requirements, to hear his demand for perfect love, to examine our hearts and our actions and to see that we have not measured up, to remember how we deserve hell for how loveless we've been to our spouses, our kids, our parents, our friends and our God.

And that realization can leave us feeling pretty shaken. It can leave us feeling pretty insecure about our relationship with God. While the law strips us of any arrogance, it can also rob us of any confidence. But that's not what God wants for us. He wants us to be totally confident that our relationship with him is okay—more than okay! He wants you certain that he loves you with a love that can never fail!

This Mother's Day, are you confident that your mom loves you? Sadly, not everyone can answer "yes," to that question. But even if you have a great mom, and you're totally confident that she loves you, nevertheless, mom's still a sinner too. And there will be times that she will let you down. Every sinner will sooner or later. But… not God. He will never let you down. God promises in Isaiah 49:15, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" And of that you can be totally confident!

How? How can we have such a confidence? Because of the Easter. You see, our status before God has nothing to do with how loveless or loving we've been. But it has everything to do with how loving he's been to us. Jesus, true God in every way, took on human flesh and became a man that he might be under God's law in our place. And he passed the test. He was perfectly loving to everyone all of the time, even when he had to show tough love by calling out their selfishness and loveless sins. He loved God "with all [his] heart and with all [his] soul and with all [his] mind and with all [his] strength." He loved everyone else more than he loved himself. Which is why he willingly took on himself the hell that every person has earned by our loveless sins. And he took them all away.

And Easter is the proof. Jesus didn't stay dead. But he came to live again. That's why John could write that we, "live in him, and he [lives] in [us]…  we know that he lives in us…" God gave us his Spirit to reveal these truths to us and to patiently lead us to place our trust or confidence in these truths.

So it doesn't matter how loveless you've been to others or even to God. That's not what determines your standing with God. That's not where your confidence lies. It doesn't matter if you feel forgiven. If you don't, your feelings are wrong! "Whenever our hearts condemn us… God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." He knows that Jesus lived a perfectly loving life for you! He knows that Jesus paid for every one of your sins! He knows that by the Spirit-worked faith you have, that Jesus lives in you! I am absolutely confident that God has forgiven you! And you can and should have that same confidence yourself.

And by the way, since this confidence we have of God's forgiveness and his never-ending love has absolutely nothing to do with what we have or haven't done, there's still no room for arrogance. This is how we find the perfect balance of absolute confidence without a hint of arrogance. God's law strips us of arrogance. But the Gospel fills us with confidence. So Easter means we are confident, but not arrogant.

And with this total confidence of God's forgiveness and love, we're eager to serve God in thanks for all he's done for us. "We obey his commands and do what pleases him." And the way we thank God and obey his commands is by reflecting his love to others, by "[loving] one another as he commanded us." by loving, not "with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

If you show love to others and serve them selflessly, do you run the risk that they might take advantage of you? Sure. If you clean the kitchen when it's not "your turn," you might risk not just ingratitude but even an expectation that you help our more often. But so what? Confident of God's love, you can humbly serve.

If you lovingly call out the loveless sins of others, you might risk not only upsetting them but even a bigger rift between you as they distance themselves from you who lovingly speaks the truth they don't want to hear. But so what? Confident that God will never leave you, you can speak the truth in love.

If you give generously of your time in service, of your dollars to the offering plate, of your home to host someone in need of hospitality, you will risk not only being inconvenience and not getting what you want, but of never having that time or those dollars back. But so what? Confident that you are rich in Christ with spiritual riches that will outlive this life into eternity, you can generously give your time, dollars, and your very self to show your gratitude to God who loves you without end.

Confident that God will take care of us even when others inevitably let you down, gives us the motive and the strength to love, not just "with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

And if this too seems a challenge instead of a joy, then ask God for his help. You can be confident that he will hear and answer your prayers. "Dear friends, [since] our hearts do not condemn us," (since it is not our hearts, but Easter that assures us we are forgiven), "we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask…" assuming that our greatest desire is to "obey his commands and do what pleases him."

Want to be cool like Fonzie? Well, maybe not like Fonzie. But want to have confidence in every area of life; a confidence that makes you magnetic to others? Then get a daily reminder of God's perfect love for you—a love that send his Son to the cross. Get a daily reminder of Jesus' perfect love for you—a love that won forgiveness for your every sin no matter what your heart might tell you. And with this unshakable confidence, you can live to love God and love others. Never be arrogant. God's law won't let you be. Always be confident. The gospel makes us so. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep (A sermon based on John 10:11-18)

"You're such a sheep!" That's not usually taken as a compliment. Sheep aren't all that bright. And to be called a sheep usually means you're incapable of independent thought.  Sadly, we often act like sheep hurting each other and ourselves as much as any predator. Thank God, then, that we have a Good Shepherd who takes care of us, rescuing us from the predators and from ourselves, and providing for our every need! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on John 10:11-18 and rejoice in our Good Shepherd!

Easter Means…

The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep

A sermon based on John 10:11-18

Sunday, May 7th, 2017 – Easter 4B (Good Shepherd Sunday)

 

Let's see a show of hands. Who here has ever seen a sheep in real life? Alright, now who has pet a sheep before? Okay, now who has ever owned a sheep? Fewer hands, aren't there? We, in this room, aren't really that agricultural, are we? We're not cowboys. We're not shepherds. So the imagery of a shepherd might not be as rich to us as it was to the Israelites of Jesus day.

Israel has always been an agricultural society. Think of the famous shepherds in the Bible—Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons, Moses, and David, just to name a few. The image of a shepherd watching his sheep out in the field, would have been a very well-known picture to the Israelites.

That's why when Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before his suffering and death, he spoke to the crowds, describing himself as the Good Shepherd. And not only a good shepherd, but the Good Shepherd, the one who would willingly lay down his life for his sheep. And not only that, but six months before it happened, Jesus said that he would take his life up again! And he would do it all for his sheep.

Listen as Jesus explains how Easter Means… The Good Shepherd Cares for His Sheep. He loves them dearly. He provides for them powerfully. Our Gospel lesson for this Good Shepherd Sunday is found in John 10:11-18… 

11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." 

Now I don't know how much you know about sheep, but to put it rather bluntly, sheep are pretty stupid. The Greek word for sheep is a pretty descriptive word. "Probaton" literally means, "forward moving thing," since that's all a sheep really knows how to do: Eat, bleat, and walk forward. And so sheep, on their own, are pretty helpless. They don't know how to evade a lion, or bear, or wolf. They have no fangs, or claws, no cunning to defend themselves from the weakest of predators. Sheep are pretty much helpless against their enemies.

In fact, sheep need just as much protection from themselves! Sheep have been known to crush each other by huddling too closely together inside their pen. If a sheep falls down and rolls onto its back, it is unable to turn itself over, but just bleats away, flailing its legs in the air, practically calling out to predators, "Come eeeeeat me!" Sheep easily wander and get hopelessly lost even when they're within sight of the rest of the flock. Sheep are completely helpless. They're just stupid, forward moving things.

So it's not really much of a compliment to be called a sheep is it? If someone calls you a sheep today, they suggest that you follow some leader or cause blindly, incapable of thinking things through on your own, and thus, completely at the mercy of someone else. How does it make you feel then, that God calls you a sheep? The Psalmist writes in Psalm 100 (v.3), "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, the sheep of his pasture."

Yet as uncomplimentary as it sounds, that is what we are. We're sheep. And, truth be told, it's a fitting description of us. On our own, we are defenseless against the predators that would kills us: the devil, who, "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," and the world around us, pressuring us to sin against God. And, like sheep, we actually do just as much harm to ourselves as those predators do.

We hurt each other, crushing each other with words that sting and cut deep. We fall into our same pet sins and just lay their flailing and crying, unable to right ourselves. And when we are on our feet, we love to wander and get lost in our sin all over again. For "we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…" (Isaiah 53:6)

In fact, we're often like the hired hands of Jesus' parable…12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

 We don't show love to others, but in cowardice run the other way when doing the right thing might put harm or just inconvenience us. "If I defend a classmate who stands up for the truth of God's Word, I might get picked on! So I think I'll just keep quiet." "If I point out that a co-worker's religion is leading him to hell, we might not work so well together after that. So, I'll just mind my own business." "If I invite my neighbor to church, I'd be sticking my nose where it doesn't belong… So I'll just leave him to the wolves." And for our countless sins of abandoning others in need, we deserve to be abandoned, to be left to the wolves, to be torn apart.

But that's not what happens. Instead our Good Shepherd cared for us. He loved us with an unfathomable love!

Tim was out fishing when he accidentally dropped a 2 lb. weight overboard. But he didn't want to lose it. So he jumped into the water to go after the weight. How dumb, right! Just let it go! Buy a new one when you get back to shore! It's definitely not worth risking your life for a stupid weight!

So why—Why?!—would a human be willing to die for a worthless sheep—a stupid forward-moving thing?! After all, it's just a job! Who cares if you lose one or two? It's certainly not worth risking your life fighting a bear or wolf pack without a gun! Just let it go! And count your losses!

But that's not how Jesus felt about us. To him, we were worth more than just risking his life… We were worth actually dying for! That's the Good Shepherd's almost unbelievable love for you! Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

How much does Jesus love the sheep? So much that he would lay down his life "for" the sheep, that is, "in the place of" the sheep. He laid down his life as a substitute for us. But what makes that so special is that he's the "Good" Shepherd. And that's not "good" like, "I got a 92 on my test! I did really good!" But this word for "good" means "excellent, the very best, the real thing, the ideal, the model." By God's holy standards, only Jesus can rightly be called good—for only he met God's demand for total perfection. That's why he's the Good Shepherd. There is no other.

And though it's a bit of a mixed metaphor, the Good (or Perfect) Shepherd became the scapegoat, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) He took our sins on himself: those sins of running away instead of standing up to defend the truth, of crushing each other, of wandering away from him time and time again. And he gave his perfect goodness to us. So, we are rescued from the wolf, the devil. We are saved from ourselves and our own sin! We belong to his flock! We belong to him! And we'll be with him in his kingdom!

Jesus loves us all that much even though there is no reason that he should. It's only by his grace—his undeserved love that he gives us dumb sheep that self-sacrificing love that took the fangs of the wolf (and hell itself) in our place!

Dear friends, marvel at such love that he has for us lowly sheep! And you can be certain that if he loved you that much when you were helpless, loveless, faithless sinners, who loved to wander from him, he surely loves you now! How much must he love you now that he's redeemed you and made you his own! You can be confident that he will provided for your every need now.

 

Now, someone might ask, "Who cares if he loves us if he's dead?! So what if the shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep if he dies defending them? If he gets himself killed by a wolf or a bear, then that predator would suddenly have an all-you-can-eat sheep buffet!" But that's not how it is with our Good Shepherd either. Our Good Shepherd, not only loves his sheep, but he has the power to take care them because he didn't just lay down his life for his sheep, he took it up again!

He said, "I lay down my life—only to take it up again…. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." What a clear reference to Jesus' resurrection! And he said this six months before his death! This resurrection guarantees his victory! He wasn't devoured by the wolf, but ruined the wolf by his death. He wasn't defeated, but defeated every enemy—sin, hell, and death itself! And he did it all for us!

And now we can rejoice! For "we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." (Psalm 100:3) We are his own! To be called a sheep—his sheep—is not an insult then, but the most comforting truth there is. How many of you have seen this painting before? It's called "The Good Shepherd" and is painted by a man named Werner Sallman. Now look at this painting and picture yourself as that lamb, safe in Jesus' arms. Because, dear friends, that's where you are: held by him, loved by him, known by him, with every one of your needs provided for by him.

Dear friends, trust him who loves you so much that he gave his life for you! Trust him who rose again to provide for your every need! And finally, live every day of your lives in thanks to your Good Shepherd. Thank him by sharing him with others—with those sheep that are not yet in the pen. Don't run the other way, even if you are threatened socially, financially, or even physically. But show others the same loving concern that your Good Shepherd has shown to you in making you his little lamb—for your shepherd gently guides you, he knows your needs and well provides you, he loves you every day the same and even calls you by your name. Amen, dear sheep, amen!


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

Listen to sermons online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Podcast
Watch services online: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Webcast

Have you been blessed by our ministry at Grace? Consider supporting us with your generous gifts. Give securely online with a check or credit or debit card here: www.GraceLutheranKenai.com/Give

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

​Bleached by the Son (A sermon based on 1 John 1:5—2:2)

Ever leave something outside only to have the color fade in the sun? The sun has power to remove not just color, but bacteria. In the same way the sun can purify water of harmful bacteria that can kill, so too the Son of God can and does purify us from every sin that kills eternally. Through his blood, we who confess our sin to him are purified and made clean and holy in God's sight. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on 1 John 1:5-2:2 and rejoice that Easter means we are pure! 

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Easter Means… We Are Pure
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Bleached by the Son
A sermon based on 1 John 1:5—2:2
Sunday, April 30, 2017

How observant are you? Have you noticed that the linoleum "tile" in the entry way right by the front door is a different color than it used to be? The colors are fading as it's bleached in the sun. Some cushions for two lawn chairs we've left on the deck are no longer the vibrant colors they once were when we bought the set 13 years ago. They too have been bleached by the sun. For some people, their hair turns a shade lighter after a trip to Hawaii as it too is bleached by the sun.

But did you know that radiation from the sun not only removes color, but it can also remove bacteria? I was reading my prepper blogs last week and learned that you can purify water, killing any bacteria in it and making it safe for human consumption using a clear 2-liter bottle, the sun, and a little bit of time. Just lay the bottle down on it's side for maximum exposure to the sun and in 6 hours of direct sunlight or 2 days of indirect sunlight, all your E-coli, salmonella, and giardia will be gone. Your water will be pure enough to drink!

In our sermon for this morning, we hear how the Son (s-o-n) purifies us. He who is in his very nature light makes us pure, not of bacteria, but of sin! He makes us morally pure and holy! In a sense, you could say we have been bleached by the Son! Our lesson for this morning picks up where we left off last week, in 1 John 1:5 to 2:2…


5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.


You know that without the sun, we would all be dead. Without the sun, temperatures on earth would be far too cold to sustain life. Without the sun there would be no food since no crops could grow without the light. Simply put, the sun gives life.

But ironically, you also know that if we were to get too close to the sun, it would mean our death. It is too hot, too intense, for us to handle. Have you ever had a bad sunburn? That would be nothing compared to what would happen if you flew your rocket ship too close to the sun. If we got too close to the sun we would burn up and be totally consumed.

God, whom John here says is light, is a lot like the sun. Like the sun, we could not live without him. He is the source of all good things including the sun that warms our planet and grows our food. But, like the sun, we can't get too close to him, not the way we are, or we will be consumed by his holiness and totally burned up.

God is light. And that light is so intense it burns through the darkness. Of course John is writing metaphorically here. The light is God's holiness. And darkness is sin. If we walk in darkness—that is, if our we live an openly sinful lifestyle—we are living in the dark and we will freeze to death.

But, on the other hand, if we claim to be in the light—living a morally righteous and upright life—well, we're liars, says John. We haven't been perfect. To claim we have not lived in the darkness, that we have not rebelled against God by our actions, that we don't really need him… is a bold faced lie! And no one is really fooled by it. We're not fooled. God certainly isn't fooled. The only one you really fool (if anyone) is yourself.

John says, "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." And you'll notice he says, "we." He includes the possibility that even he, the apostle whom Jesus loved, could fall into this terrible line of thought.

The truth is, you are a sinner. You have rebelled against God. You have done things that were in direct defiance of God's will for you. (And it doesn't matter if it was intentional or accidental.) You have said things that you would rather God had not heard. (And it doesn't matter if it was thought out or in a moment of frustration.) You have thought things that you would be ashamed to have projected on these screens. And God has seen your every thought.

The truth is you are a sinner. You are a rebel. You are not pretty good. That's what God says about you… and about me. And if you want to argue that point, well… "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

You are a sinner. And as such you are in need of God's help. So own up to it. Don't try to pretend that you're good enough without him. Or he will leave you to your own devices and you will be without him. Remember your total dependence on God's grace every second of every day. Remember how much you need Jesus and confess your sin to him.

For without him, darkened by sin, we stand a chance to survive in the presence of God's holiness. Like flying a rocket ship into the sun we would be totally consumed. And that's what we deserve: the worst sunburn ever—a Son (s-o-n) burn—as we're totally consumed by God's wrath at our death or on Judgment Day.

We need help! And only God has the solution. But thank God that he's given us that solution…


The boat was ruined. He watched it sink into the water before his eyes. Now he was stranded on this island and surrounded by saltwater, he was in serious risk of dehydration and… death! But he found a small pond in the middle of the small island. The only problem was, he wasn't sure if it was safe to drink. If he drank it as it was, he might get sick and dehydrate even faster as his body used every ounce of liquid to expel any harmful bacteria.

But… he had an empty water bottle. And filling it with water from the pond, he let it sit in the sun for several hours. Then he knew the pollutants would be destroyed. The water would be safe to drink and he would survive until rescue arrived.

In a way similar to how the sun will purify water, God's Son purifies us, not of bacteria, but of sin. He bleaches our sin away so we are pure and holy. And now we will live until he rescues us once and for all. Easter is the proof that God's purification of sin accomplished on Good Friday worked! Our pollutants—our sinful thoughts, our sinful words, our sinful actions—are all gone because of Jesus work for us!

That's what John's getting at in his message here: Have you ever wondered, "Am I really a Christian, even though I keep sinning—all the time?!" You're not alone. John wanted to reassure his readers that they were Christian's purified from all their sin, not by their works or efforts, but by God's work and effort for them and by his promises. In fact, where our text says, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you…" the Greek literally says, "This is the [promise] we have heard from him and declare to you…"

And this is the promise: Jesus is the Righteous One. He lived a perfect life in your place. Jesus' blood purifies us from sin because his death paid for it all. And if you wonder if his work applies to you, John makes it clear: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

Let's see a show of hands: Was anyone here born on the moon? Perhaps on Mars or some other planet? I didn't think so. If you were born on earth, then Christ's work applies to you. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

And John gives this added assurance (and this is probably my personal favorite verse in the entire Bible): "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…" And my favorite word in that verse? "Will." "If we confess our sins, he… will forgive us our sins…" H The inspired text doesn't say, "he might forgive us," or even, "there's a pretty good chance he will forgive us," but, "he… will forgive us our sins…" That's a promise from God you can take to the bank!

And it's that promise that takes any fear out of confession. It can be a terrifying thing to confess your sin to someone. It can be terrifying because you don't know how they might respond. Maybe they'll say, "Yeah, you did do a horrible thing! No, I don't forgive you! Yes, I am going to make you pay and I'm going to make you pay big!"

But that's not what you get from God! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…"

If you confess, literally, if you "agree with" God that you are a sinner, a rebel, in need of his forgiveness and his help… you will get it! …every time! That promise removes any fear from confessing our sin to God! It frees us to fess up every time we mess up! So trust in God's promise of forgiveness! Confess to him and be forgiven!

Here's my challenge to you: Go home this afternoon and carefully consider: have you been trying to cover up some sin? Have you been trying to hide it from others? Have you been trying to hide it from God? If so, you're not deceiving him! You're only deceiving yourself! But confess it to him openly. Admit that you have been wrong. Agree with him that it is not just some small mistake, but a terrible violation of his holy will… and be forgiven! "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…"

Then just as a man can drink purified water and live, so too purified of all sin, you too will live… but eternally! So make this your daily habit: When you mess up, fess up, and… be forgiven!

And finally, as you rejoice in God's forgiveness—a forgiveness he gives right away every time!—then show him how thankful you are! Don't go and muddy the water again right away! But do all you can to keep it pure. Yes, you will mess up and sin again. But when you do, your defense attorney will come to your side again. "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." And he will argue your case. He will win the case! And the judge will have to declare, "Not guilty! For Jesus' sake!"

The Light has made you clean, dear friends! You have been purified of all sin! You have been bleached by the Son! Now walk in the light and stay clean! Live in the light as you live in such a way that brings glory to God! Delight in the light and in the forgiveness God brings, purifying you in the Son, proven by his resurrection! And serve God in thanks for the truth that Easter means you're pure! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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