Sunday, October 15, 2017

This Sword Cuts Both Ways (A sermon based on Hebrews 4:12-13)

What's mightier than the sharpest sword? What's more powerful than dynamite? What powerful tool is readily available to you in your home or on the web? It's the living and active Word of God, sharper than any double-edged sword. And it has the power to cut you down with the law quicker than anything else. But this sword cuts another way too. Like a sharp scalpel in the hand of a skilled surgeon, God's Word has the power to cut out the malignant growth of your sin and make you healthy and whole! What a powerful gift from God! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Hebrews 4:12-13 and rejoice that...

This Sword Cuts Both Ways

A sermon based on Hebrews 4:12-13

Sunday, October 15, 2017 – Pentecost 19B

 

"Where is the justice in the world? If God is really a loving God, then why doesn't he end the evil, end the violence, end the injustice?!"

"That sword cuts both ways," the man answered his friend.  "If you want God to bring justice to the world, do you want him to bring justice against you?! That sword cuts both ways, friend."  

It reminds me of the scene in the Road to Emmaus movie where one of the disciples asks Jesus, "When they were about to execute him, why didn't [Jesus] put a stop to it?! If he was the Messiah couldn't he just destroy his enemies and all the wicked?"

"You mean… like the flood?" Jesus asks.

"Yes! The flood!" the disciple replies. "Why didn't he just wipe out all the evil people?! Another flood or… something?!"

And Jesus responds, "Wipe out the evil people? And who would be left, my friend? …Are you without sin?"

In a sense, Jesus told that Emmaus disciple, "That sword cuts both ways."

It's true that God's sword cuts both ways. His word is sharper than a double-edged sword. And when we want to throw out accusations against others, it cuts us with the law that hurts and stings …and kills. But God's Word cuts both ways in another sense: it doesn't just cut like a sword to kill, it also cuts like a scalpel to remove the malignant growth and to heal. Thank God for his powerful Word that cuts both ways. Our text for consideration this morning is from Hebrews 4:12-13…  

 

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

Now you can probably tell just by looking at me that I have been engaged in a tiring battle. It's the Battle of the Bulge. Nearing 40, my metabolism is slowing. I don't think it was ever super fast to begin with, but it seem like now more than ever, whatever I put in my mouth shows up on my sides. And if it's not obvious by the bathroom scale, the bathroom mirror tells what we call, "God's honest truth." Hi. My name is Rob. And I'm pudgy.

And I know that I'm not alone in a somewhat compromised body image—an image that would make most of us pretty uncomfortable to stand naked before others.

Now, I know this next illustration may be troublesome, even traumatic, for some. But I'm going to risk it anyway to give you a picture of what God is saying to us this morning.

I want you to imagine that you live in ancient times. And while you're relaxing at home, you hear a knock at the door. When you go to answer and open the door, you see a Roman soldier standing outside. Before you get a chance to respond, he grabs you by the arm and yanks you into the street in front of your house. He grabs the front of your shirt and pulls down so hard that he rips it away. He pulls out his gladius, that sharp, double-edged short sword and presses it against your skin, between you and your clothes. And with a sudden draw, he cuts off the clothes that you're wearing. There you stand, in front of your house, with all of your neighbors watching, now completely naked. Then the soldier grabs you by the hair, pulls your head back, and pressed his gladius against your throat.

That, as uncomfortable as it is, is the picture the author to the Hebrews paints for us of what God's law does to us. We stand before, not just a Roman soldier, but before God totally naked. Where the NIV says, "Everything is uncovered," the Greek says, "Everything is gymnos," that is, naked. In fact, I don't know if you knew this, but our English word, gymnasium means "a place where athletes are trained… naked." Thankfully "gym class" and "gymnastics" today aren't done the way they were in ancient Greece.

Then the word that is translated, "laid bare," comes from a Greek idiom which "refers to bending back the neck of a sacrificial victim to make ready for the final stroke." [1]

That's what God's Word does to us. "It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." And the Greek word for "judges" is kritikos, the word from which we get our English, critical or critique. It critiques our thoughts and attitudes and it leaves us naked and vulnerable as God reads our every fleeting thought, every moment of hatred or lust or greed. And as the score cards go up, we see a zero… another zero… another zero.

And there's nothing we can do to cover up. No excuse, no penance, no amends can cover our naked vulnerability before God, the Judge of all.  And we know what judgment we deserve: "This sinner stands condemned before God and is sentenced to an eternity of shame away from him, an eternity of torment in hell." That's what we deserve. And there's no arguing it. There's covering it up on our own.

If you watch the news, read the headlines, skim the Facebook posts and then want to cry "Foul!" and declare God unjust in failing to punish the wicked… then remember, friends, that sword cuts both ways. You're really asking God, who sees you naked, to punish you, who have been wicked in, "the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." "Wipe out the evil people? And who would be left, my friend? …Are you without sin?"

You see how God's word cuts us down in our stubborn and foolish pride and leads us to repent of our sin just as it did with Peter's Pentecost audience: "They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"

 

And thank God for it! It leads us to ask that same question. "What shall we do?" And thank God that he answers that question in his Word too. He tells us that we don't need to do anything, that Christ did it all, that we don't get the justice that we so foolishly ask for! Because, instead of sending the sword against us, he sent the sword against his own Son in our place.

"The word of God is living and active." And, in that Word, God reveals how he sent his own Son to come to earth in our place. And Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life that could totally withstand the scrutiny and critique of God the Father himself, who deemed it perfect and worthy of life with him. Yet, nevertheless, he was stripped naked, totally exposed, as Roman soldiers gambled over his inner garment after they nailed him to a cross. And there he was critiqued; judged by God the Father as guilty—guilty for all of our shameful words and deeds and our, "thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  

And there on that cross, Jesus' throat was exposed, so to speak, as the Lamb of God who became the sacrificial victim to whom the final stroke was delivered. He endured the shame, the vulnerability, and the hell that we deserved on that cross to rescue us from it. That's what that living and active Word of God reveals to us.

And by Jesus' perfect sacrifice for us, our sin has been removed. You see, the Word of God doesn't just cut us down with the sword of the law, shaming us into repentance. It cuts another way too. It cuts out our sin with the scalpel of the gospel, removing that which ails and kills, making us healthy and whole. In that sense, this sword cuts both ways.

And by Jesus' perfect sacrifice for us, we have been covered. Just as Adam's nakedness was covered by the skin of an animal killed for him (see Genesis 3:21), so our spiritual nakedness before God is covered by Christ, killed for us. Paul wrote in Galatians 3(:26-27), "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." This fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 61:10: "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

So now when God looks at us, he doesn't see us naked and exposed with all of our sin hanging out for him to see. But he see's Christ and his perfect righteousness that covers our guilt and shame with his holy righteousness. We look sinless to God the Father and, as such, fit for heaven. This is what the living and active Word of God reveals to us.

And now, in thanks to God for what he's done for us in Christ—in cutting away our sin and covering our nakedness with his righteousness—we are eager to share the message of his grace with others to clothe them too. And what a powerful tool we have to carry out the mission entrusted to us: We have the most powerful thing in the world at our disposal: God's living and active Word. And though its results are not always loud, immediate, and as dramatic as lesser powers like dynamite, and though it can be resisted, nevertheless, the Word of God is powerful. It does work. And while we may not see the results in spectacular ways as it worked at Pentecost, there will be results for faithful teaching and preaching of God's Word because God has invested his Word with power.

And as we share it and invite others to come and hear it here, they too will be cut by the sword of the law. Their pride will be cut down as God's law exposes them and their sin. But they too will have their sin cut away by the scalpel of the gospel. And they too will be clothed with Jesus' righteousness. The sword will cut both ways for them too. So use that powerful tool at home, at work, and with your friends. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…" In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther


[1] Clean L. Rogers, Jr., The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.


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

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

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Christians Revere Christ (A sermon based on Ephesians 5:21—6:4)

Do you wish there were more reverence for the American flag in the NFL? Do you wish there were more reverence for human life as people are shot and killed and aborted daily? Do you wish there were more reverence in your own home? It all starts with finding reverence for Christ. If we revere him as we ought and show thanks to him for the reverence he first showed to us, we will also show reverence to each other. And it starts in our own communities and our own homes. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and learn to revere others out of reverence for Christ. 

Christians Revere Christ

A sermon based on Ephesians 5:21—6:4

Sunday, October 8, 2017 – Pentecost 18B

 

You can't give yourself a nickname and expect it to stick. Believe me, I've tried. The "Faster Pastor" hasn't really stuck… well, except as a joke. And I can't seem to get "Rev Rob" to take hold either. Maybe because Rev is short for Reverend. And I can't get people to refer to me as "the one we revere and hold in high esteem."

But what does that word, reverend, mean? What is it to revere someone or something? Webster's Dictionary defines "reverence" as "1: honor or respect felt or shown… especially: profound adoring awed respect… 2: a gesture of respect (as a bow)."

Now, I don't think I'm getting any of you to bow to me when I walk into the room. But I don't really feel slighted for it. In fact, reverence is something in short supply everywhere these days, isn't it? Not much reverence is shown the United States flag at college and professional football games. Not much reverence is given to the office of the President of the United States, let alone the man who currently holds that office. Not much reverence was given to human life in Las Vegas last Sunday night, or is givenat any abortion clinic on any given day.

But while it's easy to look at the headlines and think "Where is the respect and honor?  Where is the adoring? Where has all the reverence gone?!" God would encourage you to look into your own home and into your own mirror and ask those same questions. Where is the reverence at home? Where is the honor a wife shows her husband? Where is the awe husband shows to wife? Where is the respect children show their parents? And in all of this he wants to ask, "Where is the reverence for Christ?"

Thank God, friends, that Jesus showed us such honor that he willingly humbled himself and sacrificed his very life for us to make us holy and blameless. And it is his sacrifice that moves us to revere him. Simply put, Christians revere Christ. Our text for consideration is taken from Ephesians 5:21—6:4…


21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

 

How well, wives, do you revere your husbands? Do you give them unconditional honor and respect as Christ calls you to do? I know it can be hard to submit to them in everything as if submitting to Christ, especially because they're sinners and, unlike Christ, their leadership will be lacking. I know it can be hard to respect your husband unconditionally when he doesn't earn that respect. But, nevertheless, that's what God calls you to do. And that's what you signed on for when you said, "I do." After all, marriage isn't your idea. It's God's. And he defines the rules. Have you revered God in the way you show reverence to your husbands?

Husbands, have you loved your wives as much as Christ loved the church—willing to sacrifice anything and everything for her benefit? Have you always put her needs above of your own? That's what Christ did for us. I know it can be hard to show such love to her, especially when she shows such little respect to you. But that's what God calls you to do and that's what you signed on for when you said, "I do." Have you revered God in the way you show reverence to your wives?

Kids, do you always obey your parents? Do you give them the honor that they deserve? I know you didn't sign on for them as your parents. You didn't get a choice in the matter. But God chose them for you. He gave you the parents that you have. When you obey them and give them love and respect, you're doing the same to God. But have you always revered God in the way you revere your parents?

Parents, have you done all you can to keep your charge from God to bring up your children in the Lord? Actually, if they're baptized, they're not even really your children. They've been adopted by God and belong to him. You're just babysitting for him. And you will have to answer to him for the way they're raised. Have you always revered God in the way you revere that high calling to raise your kids?

And singles, even though you're not in your own family unit right now, you can still revere your parents, and you can still revere God's gift of marriage, by honoring the marriage bed and refraining from "playing married" until you actually are. Save yourself for marriage. Save yourself for your future spouse. And in doing so you will show reverence to God. But have you always revered God in the way you revere his gifts of marriage and family?

You see, all of us have failed to revere God in the way we interact with family and friends. And every time we sin against our spouse, our parents, or our kids, every time we sin against God's gift of marriage in our thoughts or in our actions, we're really sinning against God. We fail to show him the reverence—the holy awe, respect, and honor, that he deserves, not only as the Almighty Creator of the universe, but as our heavenly Father who has blessed us with so much. We show him our utter contempt as we live to serve ourselves instead of him. And for it we deserve death. We deserve hell.

Ah, but consider how much God revered us. He honored us by sending his own Son to take our punishment for every time we've refused to submit—to one another, and to him. Jesus had so much respect for us, sinful rebels that we are, that he submitted to the Father in our place. He loved us so much that he gave himself up for us on the cross as the perfect once for all sacrifice that made us holy! He washed us clean of our sin in baptism—"by the washing with water through the word"—he's made us, who were once filthy with sin to be radiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and blameless.

It reminds me of that old reality TV show "Extreme Makeover," where ordinary men and women underwent "extreme makeovers" with plastic surgery, exercise regimens, waxing, plucking, hairdressing, and new wardrobes which transformed them from "ugly ducklings" into handsome and beautiful men and women. Except, what God had to work with was so much worse—we were deformed and depraved in our sin and rebellion, refusing to show reverence to anyone or anything but ourselves—and the results are so much better—not just a transformation of our outward appearances, but an inward change of our minds, of our hearts, and of our wills. We've become new, beautiful, people, inside and out, fit to marry God himself!

31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Now, we are united to God in such an intimate way that he is wherever we are. All that was ours (our sin and our rebellion) he took away. All that belongs to him (his protection, his might, his heaven) is ours. And he will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He will never divorce us even for all our sin. What honor he's given to us! What reverence he's shown!

And now, we're eager to give ourselves to him in return! We can't help but give him reverence and honor and respect and love. Christians revere Christ! Now, we're glad to submit to him—in everything!—trusting that he who loved us that much will take care of us from day to day! And how do we show that love? What is his will that we eagerly submit to? We, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

"Wives, submit to [their] husbands [in everything!] as [if submitting] to the Lord." They give them not only love, but show unconditional respect. Whether such respect is earned or deserved matters little. They show respect out of reverence for Christ. So wives, go home today and ask your husband how you can show him greater respect.

"Husbands, love [their] wives, [as much as they love themselves… even more!] just as Christ loved the church." They gladly sacrifice their time, their energy, their very selves, giving themselves up for their wives. And it matters little if their wives give them respect in return. They love their wives anyway out of reverence for Christ. So husbands, go home today and ask your wives how you can better show love to them.

"Children, obey [their] parents…" not just to avoid getting into trouble, but to please God. They give parents obedience, love, honor, and respect out of reverence for Christ. Kids, go home today and ask your parents how you can help them and how you can better show them love and respect.

"Fathers… bring up [their children] in the training and instruction of the Lord," eager to introduce their children to their real, heavenly Father, and help them to know him better. They do this not just so they might be proud of their kids someday, but to make their heavenly Father proud. They do it out of reverence for Christ. Parents, sit down together tonight and talk about how you can help your kids to better know the Lord.

Do you want to fix the problems that you see with the lack of reverence in our nation? Well, unless you're close friends with an NFL player and can convince him to stand with his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem, you're probably not going to have a huge impact on the NFL with your Facebook posts and tweets. Unless you know someone is currently contemplating a mass murder suicide and you can talk them down or report them to the police, you personally probably won't prevent the next shooting. Unless you believe your scathing Facebook replies will silence all your political foes so they will finally show your party respect, you won't likely have a huge impact on too many by what you post.

But you can be more reverent in your sphere of influence. You can show more respect and honor to your spouse, to your parents, to your kids, to your coworkers and your family and friends. In thanks to Christ, who so willingly submitted to the Father, to death, to hell, for you and for me, we can willingly submit to him and be more reverent in our community right here, in our workplaces, in our marriages, and in our families. We can be more reverent at home as we "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." For Christians revere Christ. In his name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Let Go of Ego (A sermon based on James 4:7-12)

Do you have a healthy ego? Maybe too healthy? Or are you humble? So humble that you can be proud of your humility? :) This week God, through James, humbles us by his law. But he humbles us that he might lift us up with his grace. That grace, in turn, moves us to gladly humble ourselves before God and others and we live to serve them in thanks for Jesus' humility for us! Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on James 4:7-12 and... 

Let Go of Ego

A sermon based on James 4:7-12

Sunday, October 1, 2017 – Pentecost 17B

 

"You know, I think I might be the humblest person that I know." What an oxymoron, right? Did you think that last week when in the book of Numbers (which Moses wrote by the way) it says, "(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)" (Number 12:3). Well, to avoid the accusations that Moses was full of false humility, many scholars suggest that that verse was actually added (by Joshua perhaps) after Moses' death. But you know, since Moses was inspired to write what he did, I don't have a problem with Moses writing that at the Holy Spirit's insistence in spite of Moses' protestations.

But that's the thing about humility: As soon as you think you've got it all figured out and that you're pretty humble, well… you're not. And that's why we need God's Word. When we struggle to produce humility in ourselves (or worse, become proud of how humble we are), God's law does a good job of humbling us for real. It reminds us that we have rebelled against God again and again and deserve nothing but hell. But it also prepares us for the gospel (that we would otherwise find no need for) and let's God lift us up in his grace. Then, having been humbled by the law and lifted up by the gospel, we can be truly humble in our service to God and to others.

Our text for consideration this morning is taken from James 4:7-12…

 

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

Someone once asked Martin Luther, "What is the first step to having a sincere faith?" And Luther replied, "Humility." The man nodded in agreement and then asked, "And what's the second step?" To which Luther replied, "Humility." "Okay," the man said, pressing the issue, "Then what's the third step?" And, you can guess Luther's answer: "Ah, the third step," he said, "Well… that…  is humility."

I know we often say that every sin is equally bad in God's sight. And there is a certain truth to that. To God, lust and adultery, hatred and murder, laziness and theft, are the same—equally damning before him—even though the consequences in this life are vastly different. But I would argue that there is a sin that is worse than the rest. And that sin is pride. You see without the humility to admit that we are wrong, to admit that we have rebelled against God, to admit that we deserve hell, and to admit that we are hopelessly unable to remedy that situation on our own, well… then we have no use for the gospel. And we will reject it and be lost forever in hell.

So it makes sense that the first three steps to a sincere faith are humility, humility, and humility.

Humble yourselves before God. And resist the devil. That's really saying the same thing isn't it? It's just two sides of the same coin. What would satan have us do? He would have us arrogantly throw off God's lordship and claim it for ourselves, to think that our lives belong to us, that we will do what we want, not what God does. That's exactly what satan did in the Garden of Eden and that's still what he does today. Every time we sin—every time we slander one another, speak against each other, proudly thinking we're so much better—we come near to the devil and resist God. We think we know better than he does and arrogantly defy him. How foolish!

And for foolishly drawing near the devil while resisting God, we deserve to join the devil in an eternity away from God. We deserve hell. And that leads us to, "Grieve, mourn and wail," and to "Change [our] laughter to mourning and [our] joy to gloom."

Admit it. You're an arrogant sinner. You deserve God's wrath and punishment. Humble yourself before God, fall on your knees (at least in spirit), and cry out to him to show you mercy that you don't deserve! For as Luther once said, "God cannot fill a cup that is already full." Empty yourself of yourself. Let go of ego and confess your sin to God.

And when you do… God will lift you up. "Come near to God and he will come near to you." James promises, not calling the unbeliever to convert himself (for that can never be done), but calling the believer to repent of sin before God. When we do God will come near to us, not to punish us, but to restore us. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." For he is "the one who is able to save…"

And he has saved you through Jesus. The word, humble, as you know, comes from the Latin word for earth or dirt. To humble yourself is to literally get close to the dirt. Well, Jesus left his heavenly throne to come to this earth. He took on human flesh to walk in the dirt. And he lived a humble life always submitting to the Father's will, always pleasing him, never sinning. Then he died an innocent death on himself to take our sins committed in arrogant pride all away. And he literally humbled himself to death, being buried in the dirt. But after he humbled himself before the Lord, the Lord lifted him up on the third day. His resurrection is the proof that our sin is forgiven.

So now, when we humble ourselves before God in genuine repentance, he will lift us up with the assurance of sins forgiven for Jesus' sake. And there's no room for any pride since we did nothing to earn it or deserve it. We can let go of ego and let God lift us up. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud but, gives grace to the humble."

Someone once said that God has two thrones: One in the highest of heavens and the other in the humblest of hearts. When we let go of ego and empty ourselves of ourselves, when we're no longer a full cup, then God can fill us with his righteousness, with genuine purity, with peace, with himself…

And now, with God sitting on the throne of our hearts where he rightly belongs, we will live different lives.

Though we are still "double-minded" in that we still have sinful natures that long to please ourselves right along side that new desire to please God alone, nevertheless, we will do all we can to battle our arrogance, our pride, and our sinful natures. We will do all we can to, "Wash [our] hands… and purify [our] hearts…" There will be a change of outward behavior when we have a change of mind and will.

And when we are no longer be arrogant and proud toward God, we will no longer be arrogant and proud toward others.

It's been said that people can be a lot like vultures. They go through life soaring above beautiful scenery. But they miss it all. They see none of the beauty because they're only searching for what is dead and decaying that they might consume it. Just look at the tabloids and the gossip columns, the celebrity magazines, and the top dozen stories on your Facebook page. People look for the negative that they might, "slander one another… [speak] against [each other]… and judge [their] neighbor[s]…" so they feel bigger and better, so they can ignore their own sin and ignore God's law. What human vultures!

But we're not like that anymore, friends. Having been humbled before God, having been lifted up by him, having been freed of our sin and brought into peace with him by his glorious gospel…! We'll be more concerned with self-examination than with harsh criticism of others. We'll be eager to forgive others just as we've been forgiven. We'll be eager to let go of ego and humbly serve others in love in thanks to him who first loved and served us. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wise Up and Live in Peace! (A sermon based on James 3:13-18)

You're pretty smart, right? At least smarter than most people around you. Well, that kind of thinking, James warns, is from the devil. We fight because of our selfishness, always trying to get what we want and what we think is best. But if we wise up, with true wisdom from God, we will humble ourselves in thanks to God for rescuing us from hell we deserve. And when we humble ourselves to live for others, then we'll be at peace. So read or listen to (download) this sermon based on James 3:13-18 and...

Wise Up and Live in Peace!

A sermon based on James 3:13-18

Sunday, September 24, 2017 – Pentecost 16B

 

High school freshmen are pretty dumb, aren't they? At least that's what the sophomores think. High school sophomores, in contrast, are pretty wise. I mean, they're no longer dumb "frosh," who are so fresh to high school, they don't really know what they're doing. Sophomores have been around the block. They know how things work. Of course, ask the seniors, and they might have a different opinion of the sophomores. They might think they're still little morons.

Actually, that's what the word "sophomore" means. "Sophos" means "wise. And "moros" means… well, "moron." So sophomores are literally wise morons. But… so are all of us.

Let's face it. We all think we're pretty wise and everyone else is pretty dumb, at least, compared to us. At least, that's how we act. Selfishly trying to get what we want, what we think is best, we assume everyone else is a bunch of idiots. If only they'd be as smart and wise as us, just imagine how wonderful this world would be.

But in our text for this morning, God, through James, tells us how dumb that is. He tells us where such "wisdom" really comes from: the devil.  And he encourages us to stop being such sophomores (such "wise" morons) and to grow up! Give up such phony wisdom and mature to serve your Savior who first served you. Wise up—with real wisdom—and live in peace!

Our text for this morning is found in James 3:13-18…

 

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

 

Some sermons are nice to hear. They lift up your spirits, they fill you with courage, or they teach you some new insight into the Word of God. But other sermons punch you in the gut. They hit home. They make you squirm because they talk about you and your sin what you did this week. Well, I'm hoping this sermon is one of those latter.

I don't need a show of hands here, but answer (in your head) honestly: Did you get into a fight this week? I don't mean all out fisticuffs, but a verbal spar, a shouting match, or a silent treatment? Who was it with? Your spouse? Your kids? Your parents? Your brother or sister? Did you do things you now regret doing? Did you say things you now regret saying? Did your selfishness show itself in the way you treated those closest to you? … Did you live out your faith in the way you acted? Or if you didn't act out, did you think selfish, unloving thoughts about those closest to you, about those in your own home? Did your New Man win every battle so that all you did was Christ-like and kind? Or did your sinful nature rule the moment? And finally, was the thing over which you fought (and if you let your selfishness act up, then you lost – even if you won the argument)… was that thing you fought about something that will matter to anyone 100 years from now?

"[Don't] deny the truth," says James. Admit it. This is you he's talking about. And I know it.

No, I don't have hidden cameras placed throughout your house. I don't have secret microphones. And I didn't have a conversation with your spouse, your kids, your parents, or your siblings this. (Well, okay… not for all of you, I didn't.) But there are two reasons that I'm sure that that previous paragraph describes all of us:

The first reason is because I do mean "us." I struggle with my selfishness every single day. And I often lose those battles. Too often, I find that I serve myself instead of my wife, my kids, my parishioners, and especially, my God. I know the selfishness that results in fights, because, well… I live it… every day.

But the second reason I know that your selfishness rears its ugly head at work and at home is even more convincing: God's Word says that this is true of every person in their sinful nature. We think we're so wise that our way is right and everyone else is wrong. And so we act accordingly, serving ourselves first.

"Who is wise and understanding among you?" James asks. Then he answers sarcastically, "Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Such "wisdom" is demonic. It's from the devil. That's the one to whom we rightly belong by nature. And we prove it every time we act selfishly as he did. We follow his ways as we bicker and fight to get what we want in our selfish ambition. … What "wise" fools we are! No wonder we have so much disorder and strife. And because we act just like the devil, we deserve the devil's fate: We deserve an eternity of separation from God and his love with the devil in hell.

Thank God then, for the "wisdom that comes from heaven." Now, James is here talking about the way we live in true, godly wisdom. But many believe that in the book of Proverbs, Wisdom personified is a picture of Jesus. He is the Wisdom from heaven that came down as a true peacemaker—as one who brought peace between us and God the Father…

When we lived a selfish, self-centered, life of sin, he lived a perfect life of true wisdom. When James wrote, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere," he could have very well been describing Jesus. Jesus was pure—sinless in every way. Though he brought a war against sin, death, satan, and hell, he did it all to bring a lasting peace between us and God. So he is peace-loving. He was considerate, considering only what would save us, and never what was in his best interest. He was submissive, humbling himself to become obedient even to death. (Philippians 2:6-8) And by his sacrifice in our place, he has given us mercy—mercy to everyone, no matter who we are or what we've done. He's completely impartial. And this love for us is so sincere that he was willing to endure hell in our place.

And by doing so, he won peace between God and mankind. He is the perfect Peacemaker. And now… We are the harvest of righteousness that he reaps. James wrote, "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." We are righteous—right in our thoughts, words, and actions—not by virtue of the fact that we actually are, but by virtue of the fact that God declares us to be righteous for the sake of Jesus' perfect life and innocent death in our place.

As Paul put it in Romans 3:21-24, "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

The faith that we have in Jesus and in his work for us is true wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from heaven. And this wisdom brings us peace. We are forgiven by God. The hell we deserve for our selfishness, expressed by the fights and the feuds we have at work and home, is escaped! Our sin is gone! We are sinless and holy in God's sight. And we're at peace with him.

And now, we no longer need to get our way, watch the show we want to watch, play the game we want to play, or get the biggest piece of pie. We no longer want to serve our sinful natures, but our God. And the way we serve our God is by serving others. That, dear friends, is true wisdom. And with that true wisdom, life at home and at work will be different.

We will be pure. We'll do all we can to avoid the impurity of sin and serving the sinful, selfish nature. We will be peace-loving, not looking to pick a fight, but to end one, even if it means giving up our rights. We will be considerate, considering how the other person feels before we act. We will be submissive, giving up our rights and wants to serve others in love. We will be full of mercy, forgiving others when they sin against us, as freely as we've been forgiven. We will be fruitful, looking for ways to serve others to show our love for them, but even more to show our love to God. We will be impartial, showing no favorites, but treating all the same in love. And we will be sincere, not just going through the motions, but genuine in our desire to serve them the way that our Savior first served us.

I know, those are tall orders. But we can do it! We can resist our selfishness. We can subdue our foolishness. We can live in real wisdom—a wisdom that comes from above—as we daily remember the selfless acts of love our Savior did for us.  

And can you imagine if everyone at home were this way—looking to serve everyone else before they served themselves? What a wonderful home it would be! It would be like heaven! Well, don't wait for someone else to start serving you in love. Let it start with you. And I think you'll find that showing love can be just as contagious as picking a fight can be.

And as you work for peace with this wisdom from heaven, you will reap a harvest of righteousness too. As you focus on your Savior, as you help others to do the same, others will become like you: righteous and holy in God's sight through faith in Jesus, and eager to live for him in thanks, serving others and sowing more peace. So wise up, dear friends! Stop being sophomores and mature! Grow in your faith and live in peace! In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen. 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Suit Up! (A sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18)

Would a professional football player go into the game without his helmet? Would a firefighter go into a blazing fire without his protective gear? Would a soldier go into battle without his armor? Of course not! And we shouldn't go into the spiritual battles we daily face without first putting on the full armor of God which he gives us in his Word. Thank God we're forgiven for the times we've left our armor off -- whether accidentally or intentionally -- by Christ and the victory he won in the war for us! Now, read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18 and be encouraged to...

Suit Up!

A sermon based on Ephesians 6:10-18

Sunday, September 17th, 2017 – Pentecost 15B

 

A professional football player wouldn't go into the game without wearing his uniform; his helmet and pads. A firefighter wouldn't dream of going into a blazing fire without his protective fire-proof gear. A cop wouldn't go into a shootout without his gun and his bulletproof vest. And a soldier wouldn't go into battle without his helmet or armor, without his gear. All of the above professions rely on the uniform they wear to stay safe and would be foolish if they were to leave it off as they got to work.

Friends, God has given us his Word to protects us not from linebackers, fires, bullets, but from enemies far more dangerous. God gives us his armor to keep us safe from the devil and his powerful allies. And we'd be fools not to use it. In our text for this morning, God, through the Apostle Paul, urges us to put on the full armor of God, and to suit up, as we engage in the spiritual battle that we're in. Our portion of God's Word for consideration this morning is taken from Ephesians 6:10-20…

 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

 

Are you strong enough? Are you strong enough to stand in the face of temptation? To serve God daily as he's created you to do? To withstand the evils of materialism, narcissism, commercialism? The Lord calls on us to be strong. But at the same time it's he who makes us strong through his powerful Word.

Just as the toughest NFL linebacker would get crushed without his protective gear, as the toughest firefighter would burn without his uniform, as the bravest cop or soldier would struggle mightily without his gear… you and I are bound to lose if we try to go it alone in our spiritual battles without the protection God gives.

And make no mistake. The battle is very real. The enemy is real. And the enemy is tough. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So what can we possibly do to fight against the demonic forces that we can neither see nor match in power? We have no strength of our own to fight satan! We're not like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stalone, or Bruce Willis in the movies. We're no Jack Bauer who can single handedly take down hell's terrorist forces on our own. If we were to fight the devil on our own, it would be like putting a 5 year old kid up against 100 ISIS terrorists. We wouldn't stand a chance.

And yet, so often we try to face the enemy on our own. We take off our armor as we leave our Bibles on the shelf collecting dust. We think, "I'll be just fine. I know the basics. I took the BIC. I took a confirmation class… well… it may have been a long time since, but I did take it!" And in refusing the help that Jesus gives we show how weak we really are as we fall into sin again and again.

We deserve to be left to face the enemy on our own. And we deserve to lose not just the battle but the war for the times we've deserted and gone spiritually AWOL. Jesus warned us how little strength we have on our own and the disastrous results when we try: "Apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (John 15:5-6) We deserve to lose at life and end up as satan's prisoners in hell.

But thank God that we're not on our own. We have a hero who fought and won for us. He crushed the devil's head on the cross when he took our sin on himself and, paying the penalty our sin earned, took our sin away.

And having won the war, he still continues to fight by our side and help us in every battle. Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…" But in the Greek "be strong" is "be strengthened." That is, it's entirely passive. Not "buck up and be stouthearted, men!" as if we could produce this strength in ourselves. But let God strengthen you. He does it for us by his mighty power.

And his mighty power is his Word; his Gospel that assures us we are forgiven for thinking we can fight on our own without him, for trying to do anything without him. His mighty power protects us. His mighty Word gives us armor. So let's use it! Let's suit up!

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes… put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…"

So let's take a quick look at each piece of our suit of armor and see how God protects us. First he mentions our belt: "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…" But the belt Paul had in mind was a waist belt, much wider than the belts we wear to hold up our pants. It protected the most vulnerable parts of the body as a sword swung upward into groin would drop you in a hurry. It also kept the armor in place and held the sword.

The truth of God's Word—the objective truth of God's grace to you in Christ, revealed in the pages of your Bible—guards your sensitive parts spiritually speaking. Satan knows where you're most vulnerable and that's where he's going to attack. But you know the truth! You know how deceptive satan's lies are. And you know they're lies. He never delivers on what he promises. You know what God wants. But most of all, you know what God has done for you in Christ. Don't believe satan's lies, but cling to that truth and be safe!

Next Paul mentions your breastplate: "Stand firm… with the breastplate of righteousness in place…" Of course, this piece of armor would guard a soldier's heart. And the righteousness which you have—and not your own righteousness, for that would be a breastplate of cardboard!—but the righteousness of Jesus, given to you, that righteousness from God, which is ours by faith, apart from works—that righteousness guards our hearts. In Jesus' righteousness we find peace with God and peace from a guilty conscience. Our hearts are safe.

Paul continues, alluding to the soldier's sandals: "Stand firm… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."  It's hard to fight a battle barefoot. A sharp rock could send you to the ground. And in the middle of battle, you can't be tiptoeing around! You need to be ready to move on a moment's notice, ready to dodge an attack. We are ready to move by the Gospel that gives us peace. We're ready to dodge the temptations that come our way because we know that no sin—nothing!—can satisfy us like the Gospel does.

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith," says Paul, "with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

A Roman soldier didn't have a small round shields that hung on his arm, but a huge shield, called a scutum, which was four feet tall and two and a half feet wide. When a soldier was in battle formation, his entire body was protected. And when soldiers knew a battle was coming they would soak their shields in water overnight so the burning arrows of the enemy would go out when they struck the shield instead of burning it up.

The devil won't give up on you. He will keep launching accusations against you like flaming arrows. But your faith in Jesus and in what he's done to take away your sin silences satan's accusations with a steaming hiss. Tssssssss! And they're out!

Of course, the warrior was not to hide his head behind the shield. He needed to look over it to face his opponent. So Paul continued, "Take the helmet of salvation…" On the Christian's helmet is written, "Salvation." Knowing the salvation you have in Jesus helps you to hold up your head with confidence and joy. It guards your mind and helps you keep your head when you might otherwise lose your cool.

You are protected from head to toe by this armor of God. What a foolish soldier he would be who would only wear his helmet and nothing else, or who would only take his shield, but not his armor. Likewise, we use it all—the full armor of God as we grow in our faith by regular use of God's Word. And when we suit up we remain well protected.

But how foolish it would be if a soldier was all decked out in his armor, but took no weapon into battle. But we have a weapon, Christian soldiers! "Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." We have the Word of God which can knock down any barrier set up against God's grace. So learn it. Study it. Read it. Know it. Use it—the mighty Word of God—as we go on the attack against satan and his allies to strike them down and win more souls for our side!

Yes, the enemy is real. Yes, the enemy is tough. Yes, the enemy is strong. But we are stronger—not on our own or by our strength, but with the bulletproof armor that God has given us. The war is already won! The victory is ours! Now let's keep fighting the battles we face each day. But don't do it without getting dressed first. Suit up, dear friends, and always wear the armor of God that he gives to you! And then, in the end, we will prevail, in the strength of the Lord and in his mighty power, amen! 


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Get Up and Walk! (A sermon based on Acts 3:1-10)

​Are you healthy? Physically? Spiritually? We not have perfect physical health, but we do have perfect spiritual health thanks to Jesus, the One who gives perfect healing. We are sinless and holy in God's sight right now. And we will have perfect, glorified bodies in heaven one day soon! Those are two great reasons to go serve our Savior in thanks and "Get up and walk!" for him. Read or listen to (download) this sermon based on Acts 3:1-10 and rejoice in your perfect health! ​

Get Up and Walk!

A sermon based on Acts 3:1-10

Sunday, September 10, 2017 – Pentecost 14B

 

Have you ever noticed how many times we stand up and sit down in an average worship service? We stand up for invocation, confession, and absolution. Then sit down for the reading of the first lessons. Stand up for the reading of the Gospel. Then sit down for the hymn of the day. Stand up for the confession of faith. Then sit down for the offering. Stand for the prayer of the church and sit again for the next hymn. Stand for prayer and sit for the closing hymn.

No wonder some people joke about our "Lutheran Aerobics." J Now, maybe with some instruction as to why we stand when we stand and sit when we sit, you appreciate those "Lutheran Aerobics." But maybe if you've had a surgery on your knee or foot, or if you've got a bad back, maybe you'd rather not do the up and down and up and down of our liturgy. But either way, I'll bet the ability to stand and to walk is an ability that you and I far too often take for granted.

The man in our lesson for this morning was crippled from birth. That meant he couldn't stand. He couldn't walk. And in a day without wheelchairs, he couldn't get around on his own at all. He needed to be carried. And in that day there were no such thing as "desk jobs." If he couldn't work in the field or at some trade—obviously made much more difficult by his inability to walk—well, he didn't have too many options on how he could make a living. He would have to rely on the charity of others.

Well, thankfully he had some friends who were willing to carry him into the city each afternoon so he could lay at a busy entrance into town where he could beg for money to buy food. But one day, he didn't get what he wanted. He wanted silver or gold coins to buy food and drink, to pay the rent, to buy clothes, to live, to survive. But he didn't get what he wanted. He asked for money, but instead he would get so much more. Our text for consideration is from Acts 3:1-10…

 

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

 

This unnamed man didn't get what he wanted. He wanted silver or gold, but he got so much more. He just wanted a few coins, but instead he got a miracle. He wanted to buy his next meal, but he got the truth of Jesus of Nazareth and sins forgiven. He wanted something, but got so much more.

Can you relate? I think we all can. Because God gives us so much more than we could ever ask for. Let's face it. We're all pretty short sighted aren't we? I don't mean with your physical vision, but in thinking ahead. Think of it this way, if you had a magic lamp with a genie inside who could grant you any wish (and you can't ask for unlimited wishes, that would be cheating), what you wish for? A never-ending supply of money? Perfect health that could never be lost? A relationship restored? But all of those things will only last this lifetime.

Imagine there's a steel cable that's cutting through this room. It goes through that wall and keeps cutting through anything in its way for two thousand miles. And it goes through that wall and keeps going for two thousand miles in that direction. Now if I were to take a marker and put the smallest dot that I could make right here on that steel cable, and that dot represented this life on a timeline and the 4,000 miles of cable represented eternity in heaven or hell, well… the scale would still be waaaay off. We'd need billions of miles of cable and a microscopic dot.

As motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, used to say, "We're all going to be dead a lot longer than we're going to be alive. So we'd all better do some really long-range planning."

You see, we're all short-sighted. We think way too much about this life and way too little of the life to come. That's why we're just like that unnamed cripple. We ask God for way too little. We ask for better health and more wealth, for a nicer spouse and bigger house. We ask for silver and gold, and miss out on the real treasures that he has to give.

And what's worse, in our short-sightedness, seeking only the blessings for this life, we sin against God. And remember, sin isn't just the wrong things we do—doing what God forbids. It's also the good things we don't do—failing to do what God commands. And we who can walk, don't!

We have opportunity to get up off the couch, walk to the kitchen and serve a spouse by cleaning up and taking out the trash. But… "It's not my turn." So we don't. We have the opportunity to travel to and from church freely—and you don't even have to walk! You can drive! But instead of it being a joy, it often feels like a chore—when we even go. We have the opportunity to walk across the street and invite a neighbor to hear of God's grace with us in this place. But it might be awkward, so we stay silent and we stay put. So we who can walk, often don't.

And because we care more about the comfort and convenience of the moment instead of thinking long-term, for our bad priorities, for our apathy toward others, for our inaction in service, for seeking silver and gold more than righteousness and holiness… we are sick. We may not be crippled, but we're sick with sin. And that's a terminal illness—which terminates in an eternity of hell. And, in a sense, we are crippled, because on our own we could never do anything about it.

So what we need most is not silver or gold, better health or more wealth, a nicer spouse or bigger house. What we need most is healing—not from being crippled, but from our sin. And though we don't even seek it—though all we hope to get is more silver or gold like that beggar sought—God gives us so much more! He gives the healing that we need.

Silver and gold God doesn't always give, but he always gives his forgiveness. He always gives us the healing we need. God gives perfect spiritual healing in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Though he doesn't send an apostle to heal us, he sends one even better! He sends his Holy Spirit! "Get up!" the Holy Spirit says to us as he raises us from spiritual death to life. And he does that through the Word.

Through the Word of God, he leads us to believe the message of the apostles—a message backed by the miracles they did; miracles like this one! And what is that message? It's all about Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Jesus is God! He did take on flesh and walked this earth to become the perfect sacrifice for us. He lived a perfect life remaining spiritually healthy in all that he did. He died an innocent death taking the sickness of our sin on himself. And he paid for every one of our sins, taking the punishment they deserve, so that he might make us healthy and whole. As Isaiah put it, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

And in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—that is, by who he is and what he's done—we are healed! Maybe not yet in body, but in soul! We are sinless and spotless! We are healthy and whole! We are perfect in God's sight. And one day soon, he will restore our physical health and give us glorified bodies. One day, even after we're dead and gone and these bodies of flesh are decayed, nevertheless Jesus will say to us, "Get up and walk!" He'll say that to us on Judgment Day and our bodies, even having been turned to dust, will be restored! We will rise to be with Jesus and to walk with him forever in heaven!

But what about now? What do we do in this short blip of time we call life on this earth? What do we do while we wait for him? Well, we follow the example of this man in Acts 3. "He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God."

How foolish it would have been if this man, having been healed, said, "Thanks a lot, Peter. Thanks a lot, John. There goes my easy life of begging. There go the handouts. There goes the welfare! Now I have to work again, you jerks!" Of course he didn't say that! Instead he was eager to walk, eager to serve, eager to go to church and to praise God!

Well, friends, you've not only had your sins forgiven, but you've been given abilities too! You can walk! And you can do so much more! So get up and walk! Walk across the room to serve your parents, your spouse, or your kids! Walk across the street to take the message of God's grace to a neighbor. Walk with us at our next "Praise and Proclaim" walk. It's not as scary as it seems. Use all your gifts to praise God for the healing he's brought you!

And you know what will happen when we do? Well, look at what happened when this man, formerly crippled from birth, started walking: "When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him."

When we use our gifts and abilities to bring praise to God in thanks for the healing he's brought us, the Gospel will spread throughout Kenai and Soldotna, across the entire Peninsula, through all of Alaska, and around the globe! Others too will learn of the healing Jesus has won for them. They too will be filled with wonder and amazement. They too will praise God! So get up and walk, dear friends, for Jesus' sake. Amen.


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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