Monday, June 12, 2017

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

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

I Believe in One True God

A sermon based on Romans 8:14-17

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Pentecost 2B

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

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

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

Look What He Left Behind

A sermon based on Ephesians 4:7-16

Sunday, May 28th, 2017 – Ascension Sunday

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

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

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

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