Friday, November 26, 2010

Learn to Remember (A sermon based on Deuteronomy 8:10-18)

How's your memory? Never forget a face? Or forget the names of your own kids sometimes? Too often we all forget about what our Savior has done for us and what he promises to do. But God reminds us of those things in his Word to keep us connected to him. Read (or listen to: Download or Stream) this sermon to be reminded of all he's done and still does and be moved to offer your unending thanks to him... 

Learn to Remember
A sermon based on Deuteronomy 8:10-18
24, 2010 - Thanksgiving Eve Worship

        John ran into an old friend in the grocery store. But for the life of him, he couldn't remember his name. "Hey, it's... the man! If it isn't... you? How've you been... buddy?" After a somewhat awkward conversation he went back to his shopping, but the encounter left him a bit frazzled, "Why couldn't he remember that guy's name?"
        In fact, he was so distracted, now John couldn't remember what his wife sent to the store for in the first place. It was only five items and four were already in the cart. But what was that fifth thing? He just couldn't remember! He went to call her, but realized he'd forgotten his cell in the car. Well, four out of five wasn't too bad. That was 80%, a passing grade. He just hoped it would pass with his wife.
        John paid for his groceries and went out to his car. But... where was it? He forgot where he'd parked. He hated these superstore parking lots. Every row looked the same. So he walked up and down the rows hitting the alarm button on his car remote, knowing that once he was in range he'd have a loud audio cue to help him find his vehicle. As people watched and snickered, John cursed his bad memory.
        So what's your memory like? Never forget a face or the name that goes with it after meeting a person once? Or do you often forget your kids' names? Remember your to-do's and shopping lists easily without writing them down? Or do you forget where you left the list? Remember birthdays and anniversary's easily? Or do you often forget your own?
        Wouldn't it be great to have a photographic memory? To hear a name or number and never forget it? To instantly remember all the birthdays and all the anniversaries of all your friends. Well, the good news is that no matter how you'd rate your memory, everyone can take steps to improve their memory. And with time and practice and mental exercise everyone can get a stronger, faster, and sharper memory than they currently have now. And all of us could stand to improve our memory a bit. You see, too often we forget what God says. We forget what he's told us and what he wants us to do. We forget about what he's done for us. And that forgetfulness is dangerous.
        This Thanksgiving though, God gives us a reminder of the things he's done. And he helps us to learn how to remember by looking to him again and again. Listen now to Moses warning and encouragement to the Israelites and to us, recorded for us in Deuteronomy 8:10-18...

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

I. That the Lord Rescued You

        The Israelites had a pretty bad memory. Before they even settled in the land God promised to them, they forgot what God had done for them. A quick skim of the book of Numbers will show how much they forgot. They began to complain about the water, it was too bitter. They complained that they had no food, like they had when they were slaves in Egypt. When God provided, they complained that all they got was manna. When God gave them meat they complained it was too much! When they saw the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they complained that the people there were too large and too numerous to displace.
        And gripe after gripe, they showed how they forgot all about the Lord and his grace to them, in delivering them from slavery in Egypt, in giving them food and water in wilderness, in keeping them safe from harm, in promising them a rich land of their own, and in promising them a Savior from sin typified in the sacrificial system. What rotten memories they had!
        And what rotten memories we have! How often we forget all about the Lord and his grace to us! Do you rejoice in the rich blessings God has given you? Or do you more often complain about the few things you don't have than give thanks for the many things you do? And I don't mean just stuff. Do you complain to God that don't have the job you want, the relationship you want, the financial security you want, the problem-free life you want, while all the while forgetting about the blessings he has given you?
        "No" you object, "I remember those blessings, it's just that..." Stop! If you and I were always thinking about the rich spiritual blessings God lavishes on us, we'd find contentment and have nothing to complain about no matter how tough things got here. We deserve hell. And anything short of that is only by God's grace! And ironically, it's the very blessings that God gives that often lead us to forget the one who gave them. "When you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your [possessions] grow large and your [savings and assets] increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then [our hearts]... become proud and [we] forget the LORD [our] God..."  And for forgetting about the Lord and all he's done for us, even for a moment, we deserve to have God forget about us. We deserve to have him abandon us to our slavery to satan, to sin, to death, to leave us as slaves in hell forever.
        But God doesn't forget us. Instead he forgets our sins. In Jeremiah 31(:34) he declares, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." God sent Jesus to take our ingratitude, our whining and complaining, and our forgetful attitudes on himself. And he took the punishment our sins deserve. So now when you confess your sins to God -- including those you forget you've even done -- God looks at you and says, "Cruel name you called that other driver? Hmmm... I don't remember that. Selfish attitude that sought your own good above helping others? No... No. I don't recall that. Impure thought that used one of my children in your head? ...Doesn't ring a bell. I remember Jesus doing all those things. And I remember damning him to hell for them. But you doing them? Nope. I don't remember any of that."
        And remembering that blessing alone is plenty of reason to give thanks to God with all our hearts, regardless of any other relationship, any food, any financial security, or any other blessings. It was said well that we Americans have it all backwards! We set aside one day to give thanks and then spend the other 364 days of the year in complaint. But here we find the reason to give thanks every moment of every day, 24-7-365: The Lord has rescued us from our slavery to satan, sin, death and hell! He's set us free and won for us a heaven that we can never lose! Don't forget it! But give thanks!

II. That the Lord Provides for You

        Now God could have rescued the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt and said, "There you go. Now, just head up the coast that's heavily guarded by your enemies, or cross the desert, whatever. Then head on up to the promised land and drive out the nations there and the land's all yours. Well... good luck to you. See you later." He could have done that and still no one could call him anything but a gracious and loving God for rescuing them.

But he didn't do that. God not only rescued them, but continued to provide for them and care for them. He led them and showed them exactly where to go. He gave them water out of a rock when they had nothing to drink. He gave them bread from heaven when they had nothing to eat. He protected them from the dangers that surrounded them in the desert. And he even gave them the ability to produce wealth and increase their herds and flocks, their silver and gold.

        And God's done the same for us. He could have rescued us from hell and said, "There you go. That's way more than you deserve already. Now you're on your own to tough it out for the rest of your life until I bring you to heaven." He could have done that and we couldn't call him anything but a gracious and loving God for rescuing us.  But God has given us so much more.

        God's given us not only water to drink when we're thirsty and food to eat when we're hungry, but he's given us spiritual water and spiritual food. In 1 Corinthians 10(:3-4) Paul talks about the water from the rock in this way: "They all... drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." This is the same drink he gives us: The Living Water of his Word. The Word of Christ that quenches our thirst for forgiveness, for comfort, for encouragement when times are tough. When we drink from his Word Jesus promises in John 4(:14), "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." And thorough ordinary water attached to his Word he gives us the gift of Baptism to create and strengthen our faith.

        And Jesus gives us bread from heaven too. No, we don't get manna that falls from the sky, but even better. When Jesus fed well over 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two small fish, the people wanted to know if Jesus would feed them manna like God did through Moses. Jesus told them in John 6(:32-33,35,48-51), "My Father... give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world... I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry... I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." And Jesus continues to satisfy our hunger for righteousness and our hunger to be close to God. And through ordinary bread attached to his Word he gives us the gift of his very body given for us for the forgiveness of sins. 

        And as if all these greater gifts weren't enough -- rescue from satan, sin, death, and hell, living water and bread from heaven, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, the Word of God -- well, he gives us even more. He "gives you the ability to produce wealth." He let's "you eat and [be] satisfied... build fine houses and settle down..." He lets "your [possessions] grow large and your [savings and assets] increase [so that] all you have is multiplied."

        Now, let's remember where all this comes from. Don't forget that it's not "[our] power and the strength of [our] hands [that] have produced [these things] for [us]. But... the LORD [our] God, for it is he who gives [them]." So let's gather together to worship often to get the reminder we need! Let's decorate our homes and offices with reminders from God's Word. Let's spend some time in the Word every day to get the spiritual exercise we need to have a stronger, faster, sharper memory than we currently have. 

        If we do that, we may still forget a name or a list, a birthday or anniversary, or where we've parked the car. But we won't forget what God says. We won't forget what he's told us in his Word and what he wants us to do. We won't forget what he's done to rescue us from our slavery to satan, sin, death, and hell. We won't forget what he still does to provide for usbody and soulevery day. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your Perfect King Cares for You (A sermon based on Jeremiah 23:2-6)

Tired of politics? Then look at the perfect king, Jesus, who will never lie to you, never break a promise, and never let you down. Look to your perfect Shepherd-King to take care of you. He recovers all the lost. And he provides righteousness -- the very righteousness God demands to enter his heaven -- for everyone! Read (or listen to:  or ) this sermon based on Jeremiah 23:2-6 to learn more of your perfect King...

Your Perfect King Cares for You
A sermon based on Jeremiah 23:2-6
Sunday, November 21, 2010 – Christ the King Sunday C

It's been said that if you need a friend in Washington D.C. you'd better get a dog. Whether well-founded or not, politicians today often have the reputation of being corrupt; of raising taxes to raise their salaries; of ignoring justice for personal gain. In short, they often have the reputation of abusing the charge given them. 

Corrupt politicians are nothing new. In about 600 B.C. the prophet Jeremiah was called to preach God's Word to a corrupt government. Sent to the kings of Judah he was told to rebuke their corruption. He was sent with the message, "Unless you serve God faithfully, he will destroy your palace and your kingdom. The end of Judah is at hand."

And yet, Jeremiah's message of doom was not to be God's final word. God's mercy and grace would triumph. After the judgment of Judah would come a time of restoration; a time of forgiveness. That time would come with their perfect King, the one who would sit on David's throne. 

That King did come. He did bring forgiveness. He's our perfect King, the Lord Our Righteousness. He cares for us perfectly and he demonstrated his love for us by recovering all those who were lost and by providing righteousness for all. Listen again to the prophecy of Christ our King as it's recorded for us in Jeremiah 23v2-6…


2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the Lord. 3 "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the Lord. 5 "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will raise up to David a a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.

I.                    He Recovers All the Lost (v.1-4) 

During Jeremiah's lifetime the leadership of Israel had proven itself corrupt. The priests, the elders, the false prophets, the corrupt kings had all abused the charge given them. They sought dishonest gain, oppressed the innocent, and extorted money from those they were to care for. Rather than shepherd God's people, they fleeced the flock, exploiting them for personal gain. In their selfish greed, those charged with the spiritual welfare of God's people were letting them spiritually starve.

And the result? Israel was scattered. Because they had not been fed the Word of God, they scattered to every kind of idolatry and false worship imaginable. And as a result of their unfaithfulness, God punished the nation. Many were taken captive and scattered to foreign lands. And God would punish those responsible. Jeremiah reported: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the Lord.

God told the wicked leaders, "Because you haven't visited my people to care for them, I'm going to pay a little visit to you." God would soon put an end to the rule of the house of David allowing an enemy nation to destroy Judah for its sins; its sins of greed, of selfishness, of dishonoring God's Word.

But in his grace God wouldn't let them remain scattered. He would care for his flock himself. Jeremiah's message continues: 3 "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the Lord.

God himself would gather his people together again. He would bring them out of captivity to their homeland in Judah. He would bring them devoted shepherds who would faithfully tend God's flock with the Word. He would send men like Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel; men who would share God's message of law and of gospel, the message of the coming Messiah and his incomparable grace to them. And with that message of God's grace, his people would no longer be afraid of God's wrath, no longer terrified by him. They would be at peace with God. Peace through their righteous King…


But what about us? This prophecy was directed against the leaders of Israel. Does that mean if you're not a church leader, a pastor or a politician, this prophecy doesn't apply? No. It's written for all of us.

We all at times act like those leaders of Israel. We too act greedy and selfish. We too at times despise God's Word. And we too need God's stern warning. We need our sin pointed out so we recognize our great need for a Savior.

And God's gracious promises apply to all of us as well. Though we are a rebellious people by nature, our King didn't leave us scattered. He sent us faithful prophets and apostles to be heralds of the King's message; men like, Peter, John and Paul, who through their Scriptures tend over us with God's Word, who remove our fear with the message of our perfect King… 

II.                  He Provides Righteousness for All (v.5-6) 

Who is this King? The prophecy of Jeremiah gives us some clues... 5 "The days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will raise up to David a a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.

What do we know about our King? First, the prophecy points out that he would be a descendant of David. God promised to David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever; that the Messiah would come from him. That's our first clue.

Next, the text describes him as a Branch. But the Hebrew word used here is not the word for a branch in the sense that we would think of, dependant upon a full grown tree for strength and life. It's the word for a new shoot, a branch that grows out of a dying stump or where a tree has recently fallen and decayed. This branch is independent. Long after the line of Judah's Kings was cut off and dead, a new king would emerge from it, one that was different with new life, independent from the tree. That's clue two.

Finally we're told this King would be righteous, that he would do what is just. This King would not be corrupt like the previous kings of Judah. He would be without fault, with no guilt of his own, right in all he did, spotless, sinless, and absolutely perfect. This clue gives it away.

No human being can be judged righteous on his own merit. There was only one who lived such a perfectly righteous life. The Son of David, the New Shoot, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Only Jesus, our perfect King, always did what was just. Only he lived a perfectly sinless life. Only he could challenge his enemies, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46) and be confident that they couldn't. Only Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not. And what did he do with that perfect righteousness? He gave it away…


"6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness." When this perfect King would come, Jeremiah says, he would save "Judah" and give peace and safety to all "Israel." But in Romans 9 Paul points out what is meant by "Judah" and "Israel." He writes, "It is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." (v.8) Judah and Israel mean more than a particular ethnic group, but all who believe God's promise of the Messiah, the perfect King, would be saved. It's available to everyone!

But how would he save them? Verse 6 gives us the answer. Jesus would be called "The Lord Our Righteousness." Jesus, who is perfect Righteousness, lived a perfect life for us and then suffered and died to pay for all of our sins. He took our sins on himself and gave us his perfection. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) God accepted Jesus' payment for sin and declared the whole world perfect for his sake. Now all who accept this truth by faith are assured of heaven.

Martin Luther once described it like a marriage… Imagine a poverty-stricken woman who was crippled and deformed. She had no hope of escaping her poverty through hard work because she was a cripple. She had no hopes of a husband to provide for her because of her deformities. But one day, a wealthy king met her, loved her, and took her to be his wife. And suddenly all that was his became hers as well! She went from having nothing to having everything! She went from beggar to queen!

Similarly, through faith we are married to Christ the King. Though we had no hope, he loved us and made us his bride. Now all that he has is ours. His perfect righteousness is our own. His noble status before God is ours. His glory, his heaven, his very self belongs to us. And his whole kingdom will be ours one day soon.

Because our perfect King has cared for us, brought us back from being scattered, and gave us his perfect righteousness, we have no more fear; no more terror. We have the assurance of salvation. We live in safety and in peace, because one day soon he will say to us, "I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise." Now, in thanks to him, let's live for our King! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

 a Or up from David's line

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Do We Do While We Wait? (A sermon based on 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5)

We may have to wait a while still before Jesus returns to take us to be among the saints triumphant. So what do we do while we wait? Read (or listen to:   or   ) this sermon to hear God's encouragement through the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 and learn what to do while we wait...

What Do We Do While We Wait?

A sermon based on 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

Sunday, November 14, 2010 -- Saints Triumphant


This week I decided it was time to get studded tires on the van so I took it in on Monday. But they couldn't get me in right away. I had to wait for over 4 hours at Alyeska since so many people wanted winter tires after our recent snowfall.

Do you like standing in long lines at the Post Office? Do you enjoy driving in the long caravan behind the slow-moving RV? Do you like to wait? If you're like me, and it seems like most people in our busy society, you don't really like to wait very much.

But some people make the best of it. I've seen people sitting in traffic of course talking or texting on their phones, putting on their makeup, or even reading the morning paper, just to have something to do while they wait.

And to be honest, I didn't mind the four hour wait on Monday because I planned for it. I took along the laptop and a couple of books and had plenty to do while I waited. 

When you have to sit in traffic or stand in line, what do you do while you wait? 

The first-century church at Thessalonica didn't like to wait very much either. In fact, some were under the impression that they had waited so long for Jesus to return on the Last Day, that they had perhaps missed it. Others thought his return so close, they quit their jobs and just sat around waiting.

So Paul wrote two very similar letters to the confused Thessalonians assuring them that they hadn't missed Christ's Second Coming. When it did come, no one could miss it. But for now, they'd better settle in because they might still have a long wait. But, he told them there was plenty to do to pass the time while they waited. 

Almost two thousand years later we're still waiting for Christ's Second Coming, so the encouragement Paul gave the Thessalonians applies just as much to us. He tells us what to do while we wait: 1) to rejoice because God has done everything to save us, 2) to stand firm in the faith that we have, 3) to pray for the spread of the gospel and deliverance from evil, and 4) to relax, confident that when our wait is over we will join the Thessalonians and our Lord himself in eternal glory, not because of anything we do, but because the Lord is faithful.

Listen again to God's encouragement to us recorded in 2 Thessalonians 2… 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I.                    Rejoice (2:13-14) 

What were the Thessalonians to do while they waited for Christ to return? Paul first encourages them to rejoice! Even though they were being persecuted, even though they were confused by the troublemakers in the church, even though things seemed to be going anything but smooth, Paul thanks God for them and reminds them that they have ample reason to rejoice.

He reminds them, "from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

How much better could it get? God chose the Thessalonians before the world was made, before time itself existed. He chose them to be saved from their sins. He hand picked them to be set apart by the Holy Spirit who brought them to faith in the truth through the gospel. They would share in the glory of Jesus himself! No matter what else happened the Thessalonian Christians could always rejoice in those truths.

And you know that it's no different for us. God chose you, dear Christian. Before Adam and Eve, before he made the stars, before he created earth, before time itself, God handpicked you.

Think about that for a minute. Marvel at it. Why are you a Christian? Because God wants you to be. He sent his Spirit to bring you to faith in his gospel. You know and trust in that truth; that though you rightly deserve to be condemned to hell at Christ's Second Coming, yet because he lived a perfect life in your place and suffered the hell you deserve on the cross, instead of being damned, you will share in the glory of Jesus himself. Rejoice! All that is his belongs to you! And you will receive all of his glory when he comes again to take us to be with him.

Paul goes on… 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 

II.                  Stand Firm (2:15) 

Because the Thessalonians had the certainty of the salvation that Jesus won for them, that the Spirit brought them to believe, that the Father chose them to have before the world began, Paul encouraged them to stand firm in their faith, that is, to establish themselves and not be moved.

Like a football lineman, not willing to give up any ground at all, they were to dig in their heels and brace themselves for attack, but not give in.

But how were they to stand firm? What gave them the strength to withstand such attacks on their faith? Paul said, "hold to the teachings we passed on to you," Paul and his companions had already shared the gospel with the Thessalonians before. He had already written to them once before. Now he encourages them to hold on to that Word.

And the same encouragement applies to us. God has chosen you to be his child. He has paid for your every sin on Calvary's cross. Now don't lose out on what's yours! Stand your ground! Let nothing move you away from Christ! Cling to him in his Word! Hold tight to the teachings that have been passed on to you in that Word and never let go!

And, while you stand firm, pray. Paul wrote… 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.   

III.                Pray (3:1-2) 

Paul recognized that there was more to being a Christian than guarding one's own faith. While the Thessalonians should stand firm, they should also support the work of the gospel in whatever way that they could. Here Paul told them that one way to do that is through prayer.

God had chosen them and had made them perfectly righteous through Christ's blood. The prayer of a righteous man, James tells us, is powerful and effective. (cf. James 5:16) So by their prayers alone they could accomplish so much!

He told them to pray that the gospel message would not only spread rapidly, but that it may be honored. How is the gospel honored? When it's embraced and not attacked. When it's held up as truth and not just a myth or fable. When it's treated as the very words of God to man and not as just words about God by man. But most of all, God's Word is honored when it is believed and lived. In short, Paul told the Thessalonians to pray, "Thy kingdom come."

Then Paul told them to pray that they all might be "delivered from wicked and evil men." Because all people didn't honor the Word of God and put their trust in Christ, persecution was sure to happen. They always faced opposition and were always under attack. So Paul told them to pray, "Deliver us from evil."

And the same encouragement applies to us. What do we do while we wait for Christ to come in glory? We pray. We have been made righteous through Christ's blood since God chose us since the world began. So our prayer is powerful and effective.

Don't neglect that powerful gift! But pray for the spread of the gospel! Pray that God would open the hearts of all people to honor his Word and put their trust in him, here on the peninsula and around the world! Pray that his kingdom would come through you and through your witness. And pray that we all might be delivered from evil, confident that our prayers will be heard and answered because we are praying according to God's will.

Finally, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to relax… 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,  17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word… 

IV.               Relax (2:16-17, 3:4-5) 

While the Thessalonians were rejoicing in God's grace, striving to stand firm and praying with all their hearts, they could, at the same time, relax. They had already been comforted by God. By his grace he sent his Son to be their substitute in hell. That gave them real encouragement, eternal encouragement that could never be taken away.

It gave them a good hope. Not a "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow," hope, but the sure and certain hope of a victory already won. No matter what happened to the Thessalonians, they could be absolutely certain that they would soon die and go to be in glory with their Savior as his triumphant saints. And he would continue to strengthen them as they lived out their faith while they waited for that day. So they could rest assured that in the end they would be victorious.

But what made them so confident? Certainly not anything they had done, but because of the faithfulness of God.

3 …the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

Paul once wrote a trustworthy saying (in 2 Timothy 2:13), "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." No matter how great the sins of their past, God's promises stood. If they should sin in the future turning their backs on God and later come to repentance, God's promises stood. "The Lord is faithful," so the Thessalonians could relax.

And nothing can change God's faithfulness. Those same promises hold true for us today. He's given us the same eternal encouragement of life with him in heaven for all of eternity; we have that same good and certain hope. His promises will never prove false. He is completely trustworthy and he cannot disown himself. So keep your eyes fixed on your good hope of heaven and relax.

When the famous painter, Michelangelo, came down from painting the frescoes of a high ceiling, he had become so accustomed to looking upward all day long that it caused him real pain to turn his eyes to the ground. In the same way, let us become so accustomed to looking upward toward our certain good hope of heaven, it pains us to turn away from our hope while we wait for his return.

And when we do, even in hardships, in trials and in persecution we can relax and persevere, rejoicing in our salvation since we've been chosen by God, standing firm in our faith and holding fast to his Word, praying for the spread of the gospel and deliverance from evil, and confident that God will remain faithful to his promises. And as we wait for his return, "May the Lord direct [our] hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

Put Your Mina Where Your Mouth Is (A sermon based on Luke 19:11-27)

God has gracious entrusted us with the precious gift of the gospel -- the good news that we're forgiven by God in spite of our poor management of his good gifts, all because of what our Savior, Jesus, has done for us. Now, in thanks for that precious gift of the gospel, we're eager to invest it in our own lives and to share it with others. Read (or listen to:   or    ) this sermon based on Luke 19:11-27 to learn more...

Put Your Mina Where Your Mouth Is

A sermon based on Luke 19:11-27

November 11, 2007 – Last Judgment Sunday


"Put your money where your mouth is." That's an English expression which means if you're really sincere about a belief you'll do more than just talk about it. If you believe in it, you'll support it. If you make a commitment, you're ready to follow through. You don't just talk, but put what's most valuable to you on the line. "Put your money where your mouth is."

Though these words weren't spoken by Christ, though they're not found anywhere in the Bible, they do have a spiritual application we can make. This morning is Last Judgment Sunday, where we're reminded that Jesus "will come again to judge the living and the dead" and all will be called to give an account before a just and holy God. That Judgment Day is coming and coming soon compels us to make the most of our time on earth before it comes. And it pushes us to follow through on what we believe, to put our money, or in the words of the parable Jesus speaks, to put our mina where our mouth is. Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-27…


11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'  

Before we make any spiritual applications, perhaps we first need a quick explanation to what all the parts of the parable stand for. Verse 11 helps us with that task. Luke tells us Jesus told this story because, "the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once." In other words, they thought Jesus was an earthly king who was about to establish his earthly kingdom. Jesus would correct that and point out that not only was he not going to establish his kingdom now, but that he would soon go away.

The man of noble birth then, is of course, Jesus, the most noble man who ever lived. Just as Herod had gone to Rome to receive official ruling power in Palestine, Jesus would leave this world before he would come back to rule. 15 "He was made king, however, and returned home. And of course, he has left at Ascemsopm. But he will come back again. And when he does, he will judge all people. 

14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' The subjects who hated the king, the ones who would be killed upon his return, those of course are unbelievers—those who reject Jesus rule and prefer instead to be on their own. But Judgment Day is coming. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

 The servants, then, by obvious contrast, are believers, those who receive gifts from God to be used until Jesus returns. he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' 

But finally, to really understand this parable we need to understand what exactly the minas are. A mina is equal to three months wages, so somewhere around, what, $10,000 today? So obviously whatever the minas represent are of great worth. What are they? Some have suggested their physical blessings that God has given us, other have suggested that like the parable of the talents, their gifts abilities we're given. But notice in this parable the master gave each servant the same amount. And you know that that's just not the case when it comes to earthly possessions or even gifts and abilities.

So what do the minas represent? What is of great value that God has given each of us in equal measure that he wants us to put to good use until he returns? It can only be one thing: The gospel found in the Word of God.

So why does Jesus tell this parable? To warn us to not just pay lip service to the gospel, but to be faithful servants of it, putting our faith into action, putting our money where our mouth is. For, if we don't, we stand to lose it. 26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 

The Last Judgment—Judgment Day—is coming. And on that day all will be called to account. How will we do? Will we be like the last servant?

"Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'

Why did this servant refuse to put the king's money to work? Was it really out of fear? It couldn't be. The king saw right through his weak excuses. If he was really afraid of the king, wouldn't that fear push him to do whatever he could to avoid the king's wrath? But instead he wrapped it up, tucked it away, and apparently forgot all about it. He didn't appreciate the gift that his master entrusted to him. So, the king took it away.

22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?' 24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.' 

But how about us? Are there times when we play the role of this servant? Perhaps you've heard words like these come out of your mouth: "I don't have time for Bible Class. But come on, I go to church. I have too much to do already." "I already give to church, why should I try to give more? I have a hard enough time making end's meet!" "I'm not very comfortable talking about my faith. What if I say the wrong thing?""

I understand we all have lots to do and time is limited. I understand money doesn't come in endless supplies. I understand sharing your faith can be a challenge. And so does God. But we have to ask, "Do I always put my mina where my mouth is? Do I always put God's Word to work in my life? Or do I make excuses?" …

Let me answer for you. No, you don't always give the gospel the honor and respect it deserves. Neither do I. We let our Bibles gather dust, we let busy schedules crowd Jesus out, we live selfishly. And for these sins God has every right to take his gifts away. He has every right to take away his Word, to take away the promises found inside, to take away forgiveness and heaven itself. 

But he doesn't take them away. Instead he does for us, as the king did for his servants: 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' Notice where the servants got the money from. The king gave it to them. They didn't earn their mina. We're given no reason to believe they deserved it. It was a gift from their master.

And so it is with the gospel. The good news that a man of noble birth, Jesus, the very Son of God, came to earth and to the cross to take the punishment we deserve for our laziness, our apathy, and our neglect of God's precious Word—this message is entrusted to us. It isn't given to us because we're special. It's certainly not because we're sinless. But we receive the gift of God's Word—the good news—and the grace and forgiveness we find in it only because we have a gracious God.

And he's made us clear that he doesn't want us to tuck it away in some safety deposit box. He wants us to invest it like the two faithful servants: 16 "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.' 17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' 18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.' 19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

How does God want us to invest the mina of the gospel he's entrusted to us? Two ways: He wants us to study it and he wants us to proclaim it.

And just look at the investment opportunities we have! The opportunities you have to grow in your faith abound! You have an opportunity to worship here at church every week! You have opportunity to attend a Bible class every Sunday and Wednesday! You have Meditations, email devotions, the Bible on the web, on CD's, on MP3's, hundreds of quality books to read or hear! You have so many opportunities to invest the gospel in your own life!

And the opportunities you have to share your faith abound! There are still plenty of people on the Peninsula who need to hear about your Savior – your family, your co-workers, your friends! What opportunities awaits us! Look at the opportunities we have to share the gospel with the kids and parents at Grace Lutheran School by our service, our support and our prayers. Look at the opportunities to invite a friend to hear the Word of God—at worship, at Bible class, or for lunch or a cup of coffee – with me or on your own! Look at the opportunities we have to support the gospel work we can't do ourselves as we give our offerings and walk together in a synod full of believers that share our exact same faith!

So let's make the most of every opportunity God gives to invest the mina of the gospel that he's entrusted us. Sure, it may be hard work, sure it may not always be fun, but we still do it gladly! Because our Savior did the real work for us in dying on the cross and we're grateful for it. Because Judgment Day is coming and coming soon and we don't want anyone to suffer the fate of those who reject the king! Because we're promised that our investments will pay off and God in his grace will reward us richly.

We may not be put in charge of any cities for faithfully serving God, but that's okay because God promises we'll get something even better. As we grow in God's Word, as we go with God's Word, God will strengthen our faith. We'll grow more certain that we are God's children, forgiven and holy, with no fear of Judgment Day. We'll be certain we will live forever in heaven. And we'll continue to re-invest that faith as we serve him faithfully until that great and glorious day!

And when he does return at the Last Judgment we'll be able to see the return on our investments. We'll stand among the saints in heaven (some of whom will be there in part because of us) and we'll hear our master say to us, "Well done, my good servant[s]!" That Day—Judgment Day—is coming soon. Let's work while we can. Let's work faithfully. We've been entrusted with the gold coin of the Gospel! We've been given great opportunities to use it for the eternal benefit of others. So let's get to work! And let's put our mina where our mouth is. In Jesus' name, amen. 

Fwd: Pester God with Persistent Prayer (A sermon based on Luke 18:1-8a)

Can you annoy God by bugging him with too many prayers? On the contrary, we annoy God when we DON'T come to him in bold, persistent, and confident prayer. Through Jesus and the forgiveness he won on the cross, God invites us to even pester him with our persistent prayers. Read (or listen to: this sermon based on Luke 18:1-8a…

Pester God with Persistent Prayer
A sermon based on Luke 18:1-8a
Sunday, October 24, 2010 

"Dad... dad... dad... dad... dad... dad... dad..." the boy kept tugging at his father's sleeve, apparently oblivious to the fact that dad was deeply entrenched in a conversation with another grown up. "Dad... dad... dad... dad... dad... dad... dad..."

Finally, the father couldn't take it anymore. "Excuse me for a second," he said to his conversation partner and turned to his son, "What do you want?!"

"Dad, can I have a piece of candy?"

"Yes. Fine. Go!" dad replied without much patience. 

While I don't think is great parenting, rewarding the rude behavior with the attention (and the candy) that the kid is seeking, at the same time, I have to admit (to my shame) that too often I have given my kids what they ask me for, not because it was best for them, but simply to get them to quit annoying me.

In a sense, God tells us to be like that little boy. No, kids, he doesn't say to be rude and interrupt your parents. So don't go home and try it on mom and dad and say I told you to do it. But God does say we should be persistent in our prayers to him. In fact, he invites us to pester him with persistent prayer, just like a kid will do to his dad. Listen again to the first eight verses of Luke 18... 

1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'

 4"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "

 6And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly." 

The poor woman. Her husband had just died. She was all alone with no one to support her, no one to provide for her, no one to defend her. Now, some predator had swooped in and was ready to take even more. The "adversary" was engaged in a lawsuit against her and by false charges and deceit, by twisting the law, it seems, he was ready to take what little she had left. So, she does the only thing she can and goes to the courts. The judge is the only one who can help her. But the pompous judge on the other side of the bench laughs. "What do I care about some stupid widow? Someone's bound to take your stuff one way or another anyway. I rule in favor of the adversary. Case dismissed."

But there's one thing the godless, heartless judge didn't count on: the widow's persistence. "Judge, give me justice!" she cried. "Give me justice. Do what's right. Help me. Don't look the other way. Have a heart! Give me justice! Send this adversary away empty-handed. Do what you've been called to do. Protect me. Defend me. Grant me a fair hearing. Give me justice!" And day after day, she harassed the judge. She refused to leave him alone until justice was granted.

And because she kept hounding him, the corrupt judge finally gave in, not to help the woman, but to help himself, literally in the Greek, "lest by he pummelling, she give me a black eye." Wow! Persistence pays off!

So... how do you compare to the widow? Do you pray to God like this? Do you pester him relentlessly? Do you knock on his door with prayer every now and then (knock... knock...) or do you pound on the door pleading for your case to be heard (knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock)? Do you pester God?

The truth is you and I do pester God and annoy him.. when we don't go to him in prayer! We sometimes think that the only way to break the second commandment ("You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.") is when we curse or swear or use God's name in vain. But the greatest misuse of God's name is to not use it! "Call upon me in the day of the trouble, and I will deliver you" he promises (Psalm 50:15), but unfortunately, that's sometimes the only time we do call upon him in prayer -- when we're in trouble! We treat prayer like spare tire and only pull it out in emergencies.

But Jesus tells us to "always pray and not give up... [to] cry out to him day and night..." And when we don't, we show unlike the widow we are and how much like the godless judge we are: We're arrogant to think we don't need any help. We can handle things on our own. We don't really need God. If we thought we did, we'd pray to him a whole lot more.

Be careful then, when you pray to God for justice. For you and I wouldn't like it very much if justice were served, because "just" means hell for you and me for our arrogance and for our misuse and neglect of God's name. Instead we ought to pray, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

And what's so amazing is that he does! We would expect punishment for our arrogance that subtly says, "I don't need you go." But we don't get justice for Jesus sake. Remember Jesus' prayers to God the Father? "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done," he prayed in Luke 22:42, as he was ready to go to the cross to carry our sin on himself. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" he prayed in Matthew 27:46 as took hell -- the full brunt of the Father's wrath -- in our place on that cross. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing," he prayed in Luke 23:34. And by his grace, we are forgiven!

And not only that, but he chose us to be his own. He chose to soften our hard and arrogant hearts, to lead  us recognize our sinful corruption, and to trust in his justice dished out to Jesus instead of us. He created the very faith in our hearts.

And now the barrier of sin that stood between us and God preventing him from hearing our prayers is gone! So pray to God! Ask him for forgiveness. He is sure to grant justice. You see Jesus has been punished for our sin. Our crimes cannot be brought before the court again. It would not be just. He promises then, in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." So pray to him, confessing your sin. Pray to him trusting in his mercy. And "he will see that [you] get justice, and quickly."

 What's Jesus saying in this parable? That God's like a selfish judge and unless you nag him, don't expect him to hear or answer your prayer. No! The widow got what she wanted from an arrogant, godless, heartless and selfish judge. But God is as different from the judge as night from day. Jesus was not likening the two, but was contrasting them. If a selfish, arrogant, unfeeling, uncaring judge can help if you ask, then how much more won't a God who loves you so intensely help you when you ask.

Or as Paul put it in Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

 There was no relationship between the judge and the widow. But there is marvelous fellowship between God and his elect. Paul wrote in Romans 8:15, "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."

It's as if Jesus says to us in this parable today, "Pester me! Continue to look to me and rely on me and ask of me. Don't get discouraged when it seems I'm not answering. I hear you and will bring about good for you. Don't lose heart! It's all going to be okay."And so we do pray to God like a dear child asks her dear Father: boldly, persistently, even pestering God to do what's best for us.

Pray to God with this "handy" mnemonic: Put your hand out in front of you like this (hand down with thumb closest to you) Pray with your thumb for those closest to you. Pray with your pointer finger for those who point you and others to the Word. (After all, it's been said that if you want a better pastor, pray for the one you have.) Pray with your highest finger for those in highest authority, presidents, and senators, and kings. (Or use that finger to pray for your enemies. -- I'll let you figure that one out.) Pray with your ring finger for married couples and for families, that God would keep the basic building block of society strong. Pray with your pinky finger for those like this widow, who are weak and without help.

Or here's another challenge: In the next few weeks, you'll get a new church directory. Don't just put it by the phone ignored until you need to make a call. But put on your nightstand and pray through that directory. Pick one or two names or families each morning, or each night, and pray for them. We'll leave a few pages in the back to write in names of family and friends for whom you want to pray.

But no matter how and when you pray, be persistent with God. Like an annoying little old lady. Like a pesky kid who won't stop bugging dad. Persist in asking and pleading and looking to him for blessing – because he promises, that for Christ's sake, he will hear us and he will grant it! So pray to God, "Dad... dad... dad... dad... dad..." and pester God with persistent prayer, in Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God’s Righteousness is Ours (A sermon based on Romans 3:19-28)

When Martin Luther tried to earn God's love and favor and make God like him, he only sunk closer toward despair. It wasn't until he discovered Romans 3:19-28 that he properly understood that "God's righteousness" was not referring to a holy and righteous God quick to judge and condemn, but rather the righteousness that God gives us... by grace alone, through faith alone, revealed to us in the Scriptures alone. Read (or listen to:   |    ) this sermon based on Romans 3:19-28 preached to commemorate the Lutheran Reformation...

In Him,
Pastor Guenther

God's Righteousness is Ours

A sermon based on Romans 3:19-28

Sunday, October 31, 2010 – Reformation Day


By the late 1400's with the rise of the papacy, the light of the Gospel was all but lost. The truth of God's Word took a back seat to tradition and the decrees of councils and especially the pope. The people were directed to rely on their own good works for their salvation. Jesus was no longer thought of as a loving Savior, but solely as a stern Judge condemning every sin. When those who would restore the truth of the gospel arose, the enemies of the truth silenced them by hanging them or burning them at the stake. In short, it seemed as if the devil had succeeded in bringing about the final ruin of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

But the Lord of the Church has said, "The gates of hell will not prevail against it." And in the year 1517 the enemies of God's truth were helpless against a little monk who nailed his 95 doctrinal thesis to a church door and ignited more than a reformation; an entire revolution. And it all began when this monk, by the name of Martin Luther, stumbled across the gospel in our text for this morning. There in Romans 3:19-28 he read that God's righteousness is our righteousness, not because of our works or anything we do, but purely by God's grace, received only by faith, revealed only in the Bible. And ever since then our Lutheran church has been built on these three Latin solas, "Sola Gratia;" "By Grace Alone," "Sola Fide;" "By Faith Alone," and "Sola Scriptura;" "By Scripture Alone." Listen now to those Scripture verses which led Luther to the truth of the Gospel as it's recorded for us in Romans 3:19-28…


19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 

I.                    By Grace Alone 

Terrified by a near death experience, almost being struck by lightening, young Martin Luther vowed to enter a monastery. If he didn't have God's love, he would earn it by dedicating his life to God. He would serve him in all he did; he would pray diligently, work long hours, starve himself, beat himself, do whatever it took to make God love him.

But as young Martin struggled to keep God's law, he recognized what a horrible sinner he was. Having entered the monastery to try to earn God's love and favor, he quickly learned that he could never appease God's wrath by his own efforts. He could never live the perfect life that God demanded, let alone pay for his sins of the past.

On one occasion the young monk volunteered to clean out the latrine at the monastery, a tiresome and disgusting chore which he gladly did to get God to love him. But after he had finished cleaning, he had to immediately go to the head priest to confess the hateful thoughts he had about the other monks who had made this task such a burden. He found that while he could escape some of the overt sins of society by joining a monastery, he could never escape his own sinful nature; his own sinful thoughts.

He quickly came to understand all too well those Old Testament passages that said, "There is no one righteous, not even one… 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (cf. Romans 3:11,12 and NIV footnote) Realizing his sin, the young monk came close to despair…


Was the young monk being too extreme? Was he too sensitive to his sin? No! Not at all! In fact, he couldn't be too sensitive! His sins were a big deal! Because of his sins, he deserved hell! And it's the same with us… Paul writes, "19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law…"

God has given his law to point out the seriousness of our sin. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer! Whoever lusts commits adultery! Whoever is greedy has no part in the kingdom of God! With an honest look at our lives compared to God's law; God's holy and perfect standards, we, like Luther, must come to the same conclusion: We are guilty! And we deserve God's just wrath and punishment! We fall short of his holy requirements and can never earn his favor! We can never win our salvation!

We, along with the whole world, are left with no defense. Every proud argument before our holy God is shot down. We are corrupt and sinful through and through and deserve nothing but hell from our perfect God! Therefore, every mouth is silenced. Like a child caught with his hand still in the cookie jar, we have no defense before our angry Father, but must shut up and hang our heads in shame.

But through that law, Paul points out, we become aware of what serious trouble we are in because of our sins. He writes, "through the law we become conscious of sin." Only when we despair of our own efforts, our own works, our own righteousness (which amount to nothing more than filthy rags)(cf. Isaiah 64:6), are we ready to hear what God has done for our salvation. God's law leads us to despair of ourselves that we might trust in him. Recognizing how hopeless we are on our own through the law, we are ready for what Paul has to say next…21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify… 24 [for all] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Now, a righteousness apart from the law has been revealed! It is God's righteousness given to sinful mankind. All people are justified, that is, declared to be righteous and sinless, meeting God's holy standard of perfection, apart from any action of their own, apart from their works or efforts, but purely by God's grace entirely outside of themselves. All people are justified freely, as a gift of God; not having earned his favor in any way, but by grace alone!

And this grace is not just some divine decree without any basis in reality. It is "by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

When mankind sinned, God was faced with a dilemma. Being a God of love and grace, he wanted to forgive sinners and punish no one. But being a just and holy God at the same time, he had to punish sin and uphold his righteous law. How could God be both just and the one who justifies sinners? The answer is in Jesus Christ. God did punish every sin; every sin of yours, every sin of mine, every sin of every human of all time. He punished those sins in Christ. Jesus suffered hell for those sins. And now God can and does forgive our every sin while maintaining his justice. And we are forgiven because of Jesus blood shed on the cross.

But not all will receive the benefits of Jesus blood shed for them. For the benefits are only given to those, as Paul puts it, "who have faith in Jesus"… 

II.                  By Faith Alone 

In the town of Wittenberg, where Luther was a professor, a certain monk was preaching that to receive the benefits of Christ's death on the cross, one had to buy an indulgence, a piece of paper signed by the pope that gave someone forgiveness of sins. This enraged Luther who quickly posted his 95 theses challenging the practice of the sale of indulgences. He understood these verses in Romans 3 which made it clear that one need do nothing but believe in what Christ has already done…

22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

When Luther translated these verses from Greek into German he added a word. He wrote, "We maintain that a man is justified by faith alone apart from observing he law." But why did he add the word "alone" when it's not in the Greek? Isn't he adding to God's Word? Some made that charge, but Luther was correct in adding "alone" to accurately convey the meaning of the text. Salvation is not by works at all, but by faith alone.

            When the jailer at Philippi asked Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" The response was simply, "Believe in the Lord Jesus." What a surprising answer that must have been! He didn't need to do anything! Christ had already done everything for him! He was saved by faith, apart from any works of the law. And even this faith didn't merit his salvation. But the faith itself was a gift of God.

A man once went swimming at the beach but accidentally went out too far. The undertow pulled him in and the man began to drown. Thankfully, the lifeguard on duty spotted the man, swam to him, and pulled him on to dry land. The swimmer, whose life was saved from drowning, would certainly not brag because he trusted the lifeguard. What else could he do?

In the same way, when a believing sinner is justified by faith, he can't boast of his faith. He did nothing. Christ did everything. Where then is boasting? There is none! It is by grace we have been saved through faith. And even this faith is a gift of God; not by our own efforts, but by grace, so that no one can boast. (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) All praise to God alone for giving us Christ, for giving us salvation, and for giving us the faith to trust in his promises!

But how do we know of those promises? Only through the Scriptures… 

III.                By Scripture Alone 

In 16th Century Germany the Scriptures were all but lost. The pope and the bishops of the Catholic Church had made the claim that the Bible was much too complicated a book for the average Christian and only they could translate it; only they could interpret it. The pope's decrees and the traditions of the church quickly held the same, then more, authority than the Word of God. And as a result, they almost lost the doctrine of grace alone. They almost lost the doctrine of faith alone. In short, they lost the comfort of the gospel.

Luther, having found that comfort of that gospel, set out to translate the Bible into the language of people. For it is by Scripture alone that God's message to us is revealed. Paul wrote, "19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

It is only by the Scriptures that we see our true selves and our need for a Savior. While our consciences can and often do point out our sins, at other times they don't. By our sinful nature our consciences are already deadened to some extent and don't operate the way they should. By nature we call greed "ambition." We call lust "a natural craving." We call sinful lifestyles "alternate lifestyles." We call sin "human weakness" if we point it out at all.

But God's perfect law points out our sin in all its ugly filth. It points out how horrible we really are. It points out our selfish nature, our rebellion toward God, our failure to live up to his perfect standards and the punishment in hell that we rightly deserve. God's law points out our desperate situation.

But thank God for his Word! For once it leads us to see our great need for help, his Word also reveals our hope for salvation… 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

That message, the gospel truth that Jesus lived a perfect life for us and gave us his perfect righteousness taking away our every sin, is not something we could have figured out on our own. It's not something we could just intuitively imagine. It's been made known to us, revealed to us, made abundantly clear through the Scriptures alone. God revealed it in his Holy Word, in the books of Moses, referred to as "the Law," and in all the Old Testament prophets. It's been revealed to us in the books of the Gospels, in Paul's letters, and in every book of the Bible.

            Give thanks to God for giving us his Holy Scriptures! Don't ever take them for granted! Martin Luther first put these Words into the hands of the people and ever since it has been translated into more languages than any other book! And there are plenty of English versions. Take advantage of that wonderful blessing! Read the Bible regularly. Study it daily. Learn more about God's promises and about his righteousness for you. Learn how he credited his perfect righteousness to you by grace alone without any merit on your part. Learn how he made you righteous by faith alone apart from works of the law. Learn that God's righteousness is ours in Scripture alone. Amen.