Thursday, July 14, 2011

Work in Jesus’ Fields (A sermon based on Matthew 9:35-10:8)

Do you like long lines and large crowds? Or you do you get a bit worked up when your personal space is invaded? Jesus got worked up when he saw the big crowds. But he got worked up because he saw souls who needed help. There were so many needing to hear the good news of the forgiveness he'd come to bring, that he enlisted help. He called his disciples to get to work in the harvest field. And he calls us to the same. For the harvest is plentiful and the workers are... you! Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Matthew 9:35-10:8 and be encouraged to get to work!

Work in Jesus' Fields

A sermon based on Matthew 9:35-10:8

Sunday, July 10, 2011 – Pentecost 4A


I heard the stories. I'd been warned. But, still, I didn't think it would really happen to me. I didn't think I'd ever be caught in bumper to bumper traffic in Kenai. But on Monday afternoon, the drive from the end of the 4th of July parade to where I was to drop off the volunteers who helped pass out flyers where they parked maybe a mile away, took almost 20 minutes. I admit it. I'm not the most patient person, especially when I'm behind the wheel or behind a long line at Walmart.

How about you? How do you feel when you're sitting behind a long line of RV's? How about when you're standing in a long line at the bank and are being herded like a bunch of cattle? Do you enjoy large crowds with too many people packed into the same space? Do you like people getting into your personal space? Or do you sometimes get a bit worked up?

When Jesus saw big crowds and traffic jams, he got worked up too… but not in the way that we do. He didn't see people in crowds as a bother, an inconvenience, a nuisance, or a hassle. He saw hurting individuals with troubled souls. He saw hell-bound sinners, most of whom weren't even aware of their imminent demise. He saw a harvest of souls to be brought into the Kingdom of Heaven at any cost. And he got worked up.

This morning, we see how Jesus' the farmer sees so much work to be done in his harvest field, that he needs to get more workers. His compassion for people moved him to act. And in our sermon text this morning, he says that harvest is plentiful. And he says that the workers are… you! Listen to Jesus compassion recorded for us in Matthew 9:35-10:8. Matthew writes…


35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

I.  The Harvest is Plentiful!


When Jesus looked around at the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Have you ever seen pictures of the Holocaust? What feelings did they evoke when you saw them? Did it make you sick to your stomach to see the gruesome and horrific suffering those in concentration camps went through? If so, you get a hint at what Jesus felt when he saw the crowds. The Greek word translated "had compassion" —splagnizomai—literally means he felt queasy with pain and grief. Not because the people were obnoxious or were invading Jesus' personal space, but because of the fate of their souls.

The crowd was harassed by the problems of life, weighed down by guilt and pain. They were harassed by Satan who loved to drive them to despair or a false confidence in their own smug self-righteousness. Harassed by their religious leaders who added laws to God's laws, insisting the people do something to earn his favor. And they were helpless. They couldn't escape their guilt, whether they felt it or not, whether they'd admit it or not. No amount of work or thought or meditation could ease their pain. Nothing could remove their sin.

And Jesus heart went out to them. He viewed each person as a precious soul; an individual who desperately needed the deliverance he had come to bring. He viewed them as people to be helped, harvested and brought into the barn of God's kingdom. And this compassion, led Jesus to act. He not only took care of their physical needs by healing them of their various ailments, but he especially took care of their spiritual needs, teaching them about their sin and about God's grace, preaching to them about what he had come to do for their souls, just as he had previously instructed his disciples!


And just as he's had someone do for you… You know each one of us were once like the people in that crowd. Do you always have the same gut wrenching feeling for people that Jesus had? When you look around do you see hurting souls that are helpless and harassed? Do we always consider every person to be extremely valuable and precious? Or do you sometimes view people as a nuisance to be dealt with or an obstacle in your way? Someone to be used or shoved aside? Someone keeping you from reaching your self-centered goals? I know I do way too often.

The truth is we are harassed by our sinful nature with all its self-centeredness. We are harassed by the devil and the temptations of the world that surround us. We're tempted to view people as objects. And such cold-hearted treatment of others is sin. On our own we were helpless to do anything about it. No amount of work or meditation or church attendance or offerings could ever remove our guilt or take away our sin.

Where would we be if Jesus said of us, "Those people are such a pain! They annoy me. They make life difficult. I wish they weren't around"? That's what we deserve. But when we were sure to perish eternally, to be counted among the weeds to be burnt up in the fire, God had compassion on you and me. He was sick to his stomach at the thought of us going to hell. So he sent his Son to hell in our place. There, on that cross, Jesus paid the price for every sin. And he took it all away—every time you or I have treated someone else without compassion. And what do we have to do to enter the barns of Jesus' paradise? Absolutely nothing! "Freely you have received," Jesus said. 

And having had such compassion showed to us, we can't help but have compassion on the lost. Now we open our eyes and when we look around we don't see people as objects to be used. We don't view them as a nuisance or a hassle. Instead we see sinners for whom Jesus died. We view our neighbors as souls destined for hell without Jesus. We view co-workers as helpless sheep with no one to help them escape their guilt. We view the people in the cars and RV's in front of us or the mob at the stadium or the fishermen lining the rivers as those who desperately need to hear of Jesus. And the thought of many of them going to an eternity of hell makes us sick to our stomachs.

And with these new hearts of compassion created in us by the compassion that Jesus had for us, we can't help but freely give, just as we've freely received. And we can't help but volunteer to go work for Jesus in the plentiful harvest field that surrounds us. 

II.           The Workers Are… You!


Jesus compassion for lost sinners led him to do more that just heal and preach and teach himself. When he saw the crowds, he saw fields and fields of hurting souls ready to be harvested, so farmer Jesus got some hired hands to help in his work. Isn't Jesus' twofold solution to the problem interesting?  First he says, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field…" But then in chapter ten, Jesus sent out [the Twelve] with the following instructions: "…Go…to the lost sheep…"

And could Jesus have picked any less likely group of candidates for the job? He picked uneducated and untrained people: fishermen, like James and John, who were rash and impatient wanting to call down fire on a town that rejected them, who were selfish and greedy asking to sit on thrones above the other disciples. He picked Peter who often spoke first, then thought later, the same Peter who denied that he even knew Jesus. He picked Matthew, a traitor to his people, a liar and a cheat. He picked nobodies like Bartholomew and Thaddaeus, about whom we still know very little today. He picked Thomas who refused to believe in the resurrection that Jesus promised even after numerous witnesses had seem him alive. He picked Simon the Zealot, who was a part of rebel group of terrorists who attacked the Romans. And he even picked Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him to his death!

What a bunch of misfits Jesus chose! And notice what he calls them. In Matthew 10:1 Matthew writes, "He called his twelve disciples to him…" But in verse two he writes, "These are the names of the twelve apostles…"  Jesus called these men to not only be his disciples, his students who would learn from him, but now to be his apostles, sent out by him on their "vicar year."

How amazing! This task that is so important to Jesus that it makes his stomach turn to think about any being lost, he entrusts to weak and sinful people! But he didn't send them out alone. He gave them the power they'd need—power to drive out demons and cure diseases; the very same things he had been doing. He gave them this power to verify and authenticate the message: "The kingdom of heaven is near."


As amazing as it might seem that Jesus chose those particular twelve men for such an important task, how amazing is it that Jesus also chooses us?! We aren't worthy of such a great job—to work for the Lord of the Harvest! We ourselves are greedy cheats and liars, who betray Jesus, deny Jesus, and doubt Jesus. We too are zealous for all the wrong things. We are nobodies in the eyes of the world and sinful rebels in the eyes of God.

But as unworthy as we are, God has made us worthy by the cross. With our sins forgiven, we are perfect saints and are perfectly fit to go to work on Jesus' farm.  And our mission field isn't confined to just the Jews— "to the lost sheep of Israel." That command was just for this step of the disciples' training. Soon Jesus would tell them to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15) And that mission applies to us too. There are no limits on the mission field that we get to harvest! And how exciting that is! We not only can pray for more workers to go into God's harvest field, but we can be the answer to our own prayer!

Since we've freely received salvation without any cost to us, we can't help but freely give—our time, our energy, our comfort—gladly since we're privileged to work for Jesus! Now we no longer think,  "What can I get out of my neighbor, or co-worker, or friend?" but, "What I give that will offer me the opportunity to share Jesus?"

And finally, Jesus gives us the power and the tools that we need to carry out the task. Can you imagine a farmer without any farm equipment or even gardening tools? How difficult a task it would be! But Jesus the farmer, gives us the tools we need and those tools have incredible power. You may not be able to go over to CPH and cure diseases or into the morgue and raise the dead. But you do have authority and power in the Word. You can say with conviction, "Thus says the Lord…" You have the power to break up the hard, stony hearts with the plow of the law. You have the power to plant the seed of the gospel that will grow new life in people that will spring up to eternal life.

What a privilege we have, friends! Now, let's get to work! Let's pray for more workers—for more pastors and teachers, for staff ministers and dedicated laymen. And let's do more than pray, but do the work ourselves! Let's help farm and grow new Christians and "[produce] a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times." (Mark 4:8)

Just imagine, if everyone in this room were to share the gospel with just two people. What if those two people each shared it with two more people who in turn shared it with just two more people. Everyone in this room would have reached 14 people with the gospel by talking to just two! Let's get out there, friends, and talk to dozens of people! They won't all listen, but Jesus did promise in 1 Corinthians 15:58, "that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." So, let's get to work! The harvest… is plentiful! …And the workers… are you! Amen!


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

carpool for grace lutheran school in fall

Pastor Guenther:  Is there a list of families and where they live so that we can figure out car pool schedules? If there is one, I would like to see it.  We live in the Mackey Lake Road area.

Lesly Gordon



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Health Care Plan (A sermon based on Matthew 9:9-13)

Wouldn't it be nice to have a health care plan that was perfectly effective in making you healthy and well 100% of the time? Wouldn't it be great if that health care plan were free? Wouldn't it be especially great if you had been diagnosed with a terminal illness? The truth is, we are all spiritually sick with sin. And it's terminal. Because of our sin, we were bound to die forever in hell. But thanks to Jesus, the Great Physician, and his perfect health care plan, we're made healthy and well with every trace of sin removed. And it's completely free to us and doesn't cost a thing. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Matthew 9:9-13 and rejoice in Jesus' perfect health care plan...

The Best Health Care Plan

A sermon based on Matthew 9:9-13

Sunday, July 3, 2011 – Pentecost 3A


What do we have? 16 months still? But the Presidential campaigns are already heating up. And one of the topics likely discussed and debated this round, just like last time, is that of health care. About four years ago, one presidential hopeful announced his intentions: "My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, you will have it after it becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness." (Barack Obama, Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007).

It's no surprise that this has become a key issue. With rising health care costs, guidelines limiting an individual's eligibility, and the constant tussle between health care providers and insurance agencies, Americans want to know which health care plan is the most affordable, which provides the best care and which is available for me.

And many people today view religions like they do health care providers. They want to know which is the best for me? What will it cost me? Is it affordable? What kind of care will it provide? And is it available for me? Thankfully, by God's grace, we have the answers. This morning we hear how Jesus, the Doctor of Souls, gives us the best spiritual health care.  It's the only one that's free. It's the only that works. And we know we're eligible because it's only for the sick.

Listen now to the Doctor of Souls and the description of this perfect health care plan as Matthew describes his own calling in Matthew 9:9-13. Matthew writes…


9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."


I.              The Only One That's Free


Now those who oppose a national health care plan are those who are concerned what it will do to our taxes. "Free health care for everyone," of course, isn't really free. Someone has to pay for it and that someone is the American tax payer. Now I don't know how you feel about taxes, but most people aren't terribly fond of them. In spite of all the benefits of libraries and parks and police protection and fire departments, most aren't really excited for April 15th to roll around.

But this aversion we have to paying taxes is nothing compared to what it must have been to a first century Jew. You see the taxes they were paying were going to Uncle Caesar, the Roman nation that had conquered them, their enemy. As if that weren't bad enough, the tax collectors were known to be cheats. Once they raised the amount promised to Rome, anything they made above that was theirs to keep. And it was easy to raise more when you had Roman muscle (not to mention Roman sword and spear) to help you enforce your inflated taxes.

How Matthew must have been hated. Considered a traitor to his people, a corrupt lap dog to Rome, a liar and a cheat, no wonder tax collectors were put out of the synagogues—excommunicated—and considered to be as moral as the prostitutes and other notorious sinners!

What a shocker it must have been then, when Jesus approached this outcast, this moral degenerate, this one who upstanding citizens would avoid like the plague. Didn't Jesus know what kind of a person Matthew was?!

Of course he did! And he approached him anyway.

And what an offer he made to Matthew! With just two short words he changed Matthew's life forever: "Follow me." What a gracious invitation! How much those two words must have meant to Matthew! They meant he was not an outcast to Jesus! They meant he was forgiven for his many sins—of every time he'd stolen or cheated. It meant that Matthew, sick sinner that he was healed! Cured! Made perfect and whole!

And the cost to Matthew? Nothing! It was free! Jesus didn't say, "You can follow me, but first you're going to have to pay." He didn't say, "I'll forgive your sins, if you first clean up your act." There was no charge to Matthew for the spiritual treatment he received. Jesus would pay the price in full himself. Matthew would follow Jesus throughout his ministry and learn firsthand what Jesus would do for him on the cross to pay the full price for his spiritual health, leaving nothing left for Matthew to do, leaving no co-pay to be paid.


Can you imagine going to the doctor without any insurance or any money? When the doctor asks "How are you going to pay for this treatment?" you respond, "Well, I can't. I have no hopes of paying you for it." What shock you'd have if he said, "Okay. Well, come on in. I'll treat you anyway. In fact, I'll pay all your medical bills for you. Just send 'em to my office." That would be grace. And that is the grace that your spiritual doctor, Jesus, gives to you.

You see, you and I don't deserve to be a part of the kingdom any more than Matthew did. Maybe we don't blatantly cheat others like he did, but do you always give 100% at your job? Do you always give to God in proportion to the way he's blessed you? If not, you've stolen from man and from God. You've acted just as corruptly as Matthew did in his cheating.  And for our theft we deserve to be left to die in our spiritual sickness to die on earth and then forever in hell.

 But, God's grace, calls us. Why? Doesn't he know what kind of sinners we are? Of course he does! That's exactly why he came. Jesus calls us to follow him and see what he's done for us at the cross. He calls us to be forgiven, to be restored to full spiritual health. He saw us in our sinful sickness, terminally ill, deserving to die forever in hell and he came to save us. In doing so, he caught what we had. He became sin for us. And taking that sin on himself, he took it away from us making us perfectly healthy and giving us eternal life.

And the cost to us for this eternal health plan? It's absolutely free!  Jesus didn't say, "I'll give you this eternal health care plan if you cut me a check every now and then, if you do your best, if you pray some Hail Mary's, or if you cut your neighbor's lawn." Instead, he says, "It's on me. No insurance? I'll treat you anyway. In fact, I'll pay all your medical bills." That's the way Jesus works. He pays the price and calls us to his health care for free. And he calls us to be free from the sickness of sin because his is the only health plan that works…


II.            The Only One That Works


Another argument against national health care is that the care provided will be inefficient. With everyone running to the doctor for every stubbed toe and hangnail (since it's free for them), the doctors will have too many patients to be effective in their care.

But that's not the case with Jesus. His health care is not only national, but universal. And yet it doesn't lose any of its efficacy because of the huge number of patients that he has to cover. In fact, Jesus' health plan is the only one that works. Look at how it worked for Matthew…

Jesus called Matthew and his response was immediate! He up and left whatever he was doing, left the tax collector's booth and followed Jesus. And that Jesus' call was effective with Matthew is demonstrated by the fruits of his faith that were almost immediately produced. Luke tells us in his gospel, 29 Then [Matthew] held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.

In other words, Matthew threw a party for Jesus. But he didn't throw it just to honor Jesus and give him something to eat, but also to share Jesus with others. To introduce the Doctor of Souls to other sick and dying sinners like him, his friends, his co-workers, who so desperately needed the cure of Jesus' mercy.

Does Jesus' healthcare work? You bet! With just two words, Jesus cured Matthew entirely. He removed his sin, he gave his perfect righteousness to Matthew, and turned him from a selfish, greedy, self-serving cheat, into a generous, hospitable, loving minister of the gospel!

And not only does Jesus' health care work, but it works every time! The success rate of his mercy is 100% while every other spiritual health plan always fails. Trusting in your own works to save you—which is really what every other religion outside of Christianity teaches—is like using leaches to get rid of your cancer. It just won't work. And worse, it can leave one with a false sense of hope.

But trust in Jesus and your sins are removed completely. You have perfect righteousness and are as fit as fiddle spiritually speaking. And it changes your life. Imagine how you would long to thank the doctor who gave you the instant and completely effective cure for your terminal cancer for free. How much more, then, don't we long to thank the Doctor who's cured us of our sin and saved us from eternal death in hell! And so we too are changed from selfish, greedy, self-serving cheats, into generous, hospitable, and loving ministers of the gospel!

But, finally, Jesus can only change us, he can only cure us, when we admit we're sick and accept the help he offers…


III.           The Only One for Me


Imagine if we did have national health care in America. How foolish would it be for someone with some terminal disease to say, "No. I don't think I'm going to get treatment. It's not a big deal. I'm not really that sick." How stupid to turn down free and effective health care! Why would anyone do that? Only if they thought they didn't need it. That's how the Pharisees acted.

You see they thought they were perfectly health already. "Savior from sin?! What do we need that for? We're not sinners!" And so they refused the treatment they so desperately needed.  They rejected the one Doctor that had the cure. In love, Jesus tried to point out their sickness. With perhaps a touch of sarcasm he said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." We don't know if any got the hint and later repented, but we do know that this warning wasn't meant for them alone.

We too are sick. And sometimes we act like we don't realize it—or at least we don't realize the serious nature of our sin. We think, sure I've done some things that were wrong, but I'm not that bad. I'm not like the people you read about in the paper. I'm not a drug dealer. I'm not promiscuous. I'm not like that inconsiderate jerk who pulled out in front of me on my way to church! And we act like our sins are just a hangnail compared to the cancer of the next guy. And that's a problem.

You see if we don't understand how sick we really are we won't go running to the Cure. If we think, like the Pharisees did, that church is a club for the saints, rather than a hospital for the sick, we won't get the best health care that we need. The truth is we are sick. The mirror of the Law gives us the diagnosis: Sick with sin, with greed, with pride. It shows us how terminally ill we are: "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10) "The wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23) 

But thank God that he shows us how sick we are. Because when we admit the problem and confess our sin, we can get the help we need. We can turn to the Doctor and trust that he can help when he makes his house call to us. We can be healed and cured from our sin—for free! Perfectly! And immediately!

And then we can't help but respond in thanks. And leave the tax booths or whatever the place of our sin behind, and instead be generous to others. Like Matthew, we can invite others into our homes that they too might see how sick they are. That they too might see Jesus' health care plan—the best health care plan there is! The only one that's free! The only one that works! The only one for us! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

Build on the Rock (A sermon based on Matthew 7:21-29)

Sorry this one's a week late...

The foundation on which you build, determines the stability of the entire building. And it may determine if you live or die. A poor foundation can bring the house crashing down around you. But when we build our lives on the spiritual foundation of Christ, the Rock, we will stand through the trials and pains of this life and we will stand through Judgment Day into eternity. Let's build on the solid Rock of Christ revealed in the Word and keep building on him alone. For any other foundation is just sinking sand. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon, based on Matthew 7:21-29 and keep building on the Rock!

Build on the Rock

Sermon based on Matthew 7:21-29

Sunday, June 26, 2011 – Pentecost 2A


Once upon a time there were three little pigs. They had all grown up and were ready to leave home and build a house of their own. The first little pig, built his house of straw, the second built his house with sticks. But the third little pig built his house with bricks. You know the rest of the story… When the Big Bad Wolf came along, he huffed and he puffed, and the quality of the three homes was revealed for what it was.

This morning in the conclusion to his Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells a similar story. Jesus, the Master Builder, reminds us that how you build your house—how you build your life—is crucial to how it stands. This morning he encourages us to build on the Rock. The Foundation on which you build is key! But, the foundation is already laid. Listen now to Jesus warning and comfort as he concludes his Sermon on the Mount. We read Matthew 7:21-19…


21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' 24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.


I.              The Foundation is Key


If your house has a crack in the wall, if the windows aren't quite straight, if the floor doesn't quite seem level, you may have a very serious underlying problem. It may be a problem with your foundation. Unless you contact their company immediately, they suggest, your house could quickly become unsafe, even deadly.

The foundation of a building is crucial, isn't it? No matter how high the quality of building materials, no matter how experienced the construction crew, if the foundation on which the building sits is broken, the building will soon be broken too.

Sure building on sand might be quicker. It might be easier. It might be cheaper. It may offer quicker access to the beach. The house built on sand may appear to be just fine, and in fact would be just fine… at least during the dry season; as long as there's no wind or rain. But when the stormy season hits, what appeared to be fine will be revealed for what it is. Like the homes in California built on the bluffs, when the storms come, their foundations are washed away with everything on them, leaving its residents homeless at best, or even worse… dead.

Of course, Jesus isn't talking about construction. He's talking about building our lives. The sand is the foundation the world builds on—having enough money in investments to feel secure, having a plan B so you're always prepared, having family there to help and support you, having a positive mental outlook on life no matter what happens. And while these may seem fine foundations at first, what happens when the rainy seasons hit? When you get laid off, when the economy crashes, when your family moves away, when depression hits? When the streams of trouble rise, the weak foundation is washed away and the slightest breeze sends your house crashing to ground.

And ultimately, even if you can cope fine with the drizzles and breezes of this life resting on such a weak foundation, when the hurricane forces of Judgment Day hit, then the foundation on which we've built our lives will be revealed. If you trust the foundation of your good works and your life will be destroyed in eternity because God demands sinless perfection. And trusting in your good efforts or your good intentions won't save you either, because your best isn't good enough. Jesus says, 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Now one might assume that to do the will of the Father means to follow all his commands; to do all things Jesus tells us to do in the Sermon on the Mount. But if that's the case, how unsettling to hear Jesus say that the only who will withstand the torrent of Judgment Day s the one "who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…" because, let's face it: None of us have perfectly put into practice what Jesus says. If Jesus said of those who not only heard the Word of God, but prophesied it; of those who not only resisted the devil, but drove out demons; of those who not only believed in Jesus' miracles, but did miracles themselves, "I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' what can we expect he'd say to us? Trust in our efforts and our works, and we trust in a foundation of sand.

So, what is the will of God? What is the firm foundation? Or really, who is the firm foundation? It's none other than Jesus. The foundation that's already been laid…


II.            The Foundation is Already Laid


In John 6:28 the Jews asked Jesus what the will of God was. Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:29) Again in John 6:40 he said, "My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

While we naturally think the will of God is something we do, Jesus said that the will of God is to trust the one he sent—to believe in him and trust not in what we do, but what he has done already. Jesus took our sins on himself—our sinful neglect of his Word, our rebellion against his commands, our impure thoughts and actions, our unkind words spoken in anger or frustration, our every sin of thought, word or deed, and nailed them to Jesus on the cross. We are forgiven.

But in that act of dying on the cross, he also gave his life of sinless perfection to us. We are righteous. When God looks at you and me, he sees those who have perfectly carried out God's will, who have flawlessly put his words into action. When God does his home inspection into our lives he sees perfect saints, who not only look good on the outside, but are good inside and out.

This is the one firm foundation—Christ the Rock. Every other foundation—anything else in which we place our trust is sinking sand. That's why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ."

When Jesus spoke this conclusion to his Sermon on the Mount, he he taught as one who had authority" not to terrify, but to comfort. He said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Because we're built on this rock, when the hurricane of God's wrath is poured out on Judgment Day, we'll stand unscathed. When the problems of life hit, we can deal with them. When we're hurt or depressed, we know there's an end in sight. Built on the Rock, we will stand.

Rejoice, dear friends, that your solid foundation has already been laid! And now don't be like the foolish man, who heard the Word of God, but refused to put it into practice. Instead, continue to build your home on this Rock so you can continue to stand.

When your spouse or friend hurts you, forgive just as Christ the Rock has forgiven you. When you're worn out and feeling selfish and don't feel like serving others, look to the Rock and see how he served you, giving even his life on the cross for you, and long to serve him by serving others. When you're tired and don't feel like reading his Word or going to worship, look to the Rock, remember what he's done for you, and long to learn more about his love for you, long to encourage others and be encouraged in the Word, to grow in your faith.

Then, when the storms of trouble hit your lives, when Satan huffs and he puffs and tries to blow you down, you'll stand firm. Then, when death or Judgment Day comes like a hurricane, you'll be just fine, because you'll be firmly planted on the sure foundation—the Rock of Christ. And when you're on your deathbed, you can boldly confess:


My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus blood and righteousness;

I dare to make no other claim

But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand. Amen.

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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