Monday, September 18, 2017

Sermon on Luke 17:11-19, for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, "Doctor of Souls"

  • Sermon outline:
  • ·         First glance? Miracle story + reminder to always say “thank-you”? < Scratching surface. Closer look > Dynamics between Jews and Samaritans (who were they?), dynamics between the healthy community and lepers (who were they?) , purity laws and priests verifying cleansing, value of a physical wellness vs. something more received by faith! Different levels of thankfulness/praise. Dynamics between Samaritan and Jesus (who is this man?).
  • ·         Our own semi-recent history with leprosy—Father Damien and the lepers of the Kalaupapa colony on Molokai. Sad and tragic stories—exile who was healed, refused by mother to come home—so great was the fear. 100 years Hansen’s disease sufferers banished there.
  • ·         Biblical times: had to live outside the community and wear torn clothes, cover their face and cry out, “Unclean, Unclean!” to those who would approach them (Lev. 13:45-46)
  • ·         Conversation about learning from our history, even dark chapters—seeing the hope and light that compassion and sacrifice can bring, even in great darkness and suffering. Understanding why fears of a former age were really misguided or unfounded—or when fears were real and contagion and death was real, to respect the sacrificial service of those who committed their lives. Before disease was understood or treatments, quarantine was common. Didn’t have to be as cruel as it often became, but it forces us to ask difficult questions when we face history. We’re quick to judge former ages, but are surely blind to the ways future ages may judge us—forgetting that our human nature is the same in every age. We are not spared from evil if we hide from dark chapters of history—only doomed to repeat them, unless we learn from it (overused, but bears repeating). Learn to transcend fear with courage and compassion, to overcome anger with love, to find better ways to help those who may be in danger, or are real a danger to others, without resorting to cruelty or neglect.
  • ·         Jesus entered history to change things for the better. Not in the simplistic way we might long for—all diseases gone, all suffering gone, all cruelty, fear, hatred, etc gone, but to put an end to the power of sin, give us a new spirit of love and self-control, not of fear. Very opposite of cruelty and neglect. Cared even for these outcasts and unclean. Divine and human presence and response. Ten lepers healed, many blind, lame, deaf, etc. But not every sick or paralyzed person in Israel. Why not? Couldn’t He have?
  • ·         Bigger picture of the gospels—all along, Jesus was on the way to a greater healing. Jesus was on His way to the cross. The bigger story of the New Testament is not the individual healings, but the greater healing this “Doctor of Souls” was preparing to give. The Samaritan experienced this when joy and thanksgiving made him return to Jesus and praise God. Was there no one else? All were healed, but only one remembered to give thanks. “Your faith has healed you” (saved). Double meaning and mention of faith helps us see that more was going on here. How can faith help us?
  • ·         Not like people often say, “you just gotta have faith” like extra optimism, hardening determination, or renewing effort. Rather, faith, used in the Bible, means recognizing our need to depend on or trust in God. Faith, is always trust in something—but trust in what? Not yourself, because faith is dealing with bigger problems than we can handle on our own. Instead, trust the One who is able to save you: Jesus Christ. Being “saved” also doesn’t mean instant rescue from whatever current dilemma—problem with your relationships, finances, health, work, etc—it’s not a magic promise fix-all for your life.
  • ·         But wait! Does that mean Jesus doesn’t care or want to be involved in all those intimate struggles and problem you face? He absolutely does! He encourages us to always pray, and seek Him. Again, that’s where trust or faith comes in—it steers us to Him. But being saved, is especially about the even “bigger problems” we can’t handle—sin, death, devil. Do we have a solution for death? Who will take care of us when we die? No need? Sure about that?
  • ·         Do we have a solution for our sin? Do we know that our sins close heaven’s door to us, if we think that we can rely on our good record to get in? God doesn’t grade on a curve. But Jesus has the solution for that as well.  Jesus has the answer for all those bigger problems, and He’s solved them all by His death on the cross. No premium or payment plan to get this “coverage.” God bears all the cost for redeeming us from sin. Jesus came to give us free salvation. That’s why Jesus is so eager for all ten, not just one, to return and give thanks. God has so much more to give us! If we only received help for earthly problems, would we even look to God for the great eternal questions, or would we write that off, or postpone thinking about it? Or when God blesses us in earthly ways, do we do a 180 and come back to praise Him and thank Him? Christ has more to give, and he wants “all ten” to return—He wants each one of you to sing “praise God from whom all blessings flow”—because there is no greater blessing than for us to know who is the Giver of all good things, and to know and receive His blessings in Christ Jesus. 
  • ·         Worship is a “W” not an “M” –we come here each week, not to assemble to perform our duties to God, as if He needed anything from us—as if we traded our praise to God for something in return,. That would make worship revolve around us. Worship is not a big “M” that’s all about Me. Rather worship turns our eyes up to God. We come each week with hungry hearts and empty hands to receive the blessings that God generously sends to us—messages of forgiveness, God’s companionship in our suffering and crosses, the redemption of our lives to serve God’s purpose and calling, honest reexamination of my life in light of God’s perfect law, a total humbling before God followed by a total rebuilding into a new person in Christ Jesus, which shows all the areas where I’ve been responsible and at fault, but does not condemn for it, but puts that all on the cross and gives us a new life and new spirit to follow Christ. Christians faithfully worship every Sunday for decades, their whole life through, not to fill a scorecard or earn some credits, but because we gather at Jesus’ feet to hear His Word, and at His church to receive the wellness He pours out to us in His gifts. Word & Sacraments, channels for Christ’s mercy into our lives. We come because we have learned that it is good and right for us to cry out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!” and that He eagerly responds with forgiveness, life, and mercy.
  • ·         And as often as we gather in faith, worshipping and giving praise to God in a loud voice, we hear His answer “Go, your faith has saved you!” And Jesus sends us out into the world, with a new wellness that we received from Him by faith—refreshed to face life’s challenges anew; refreshed to love each other with the love of Jesus that He plants in our hearts. And His work takes root, not only in our hearts, but also in our eyes, giving us His compassion as we see poor, needy, suffering, outcasts, etc around us, and our eyes are awakened to their needs, so that we might serve God and our neighbor without fear.
  • ·         Americans today invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, recreation, money, medicine, etc, into physical wellness—and often to very good effects and results. But how God longs for us, like Jesus longed for those other 9 healed lepers, to turn back to Jesus for the greater wellness that the Samaritan found. God grant us this spiritual wellness—the wholeness of our salvation in Jesus Christ!  And the great news is that Jesus gives it for free! Knowing who He is; that God is the Great Giver of all things, that we return thanks and praise to Him, and find our life in Jesus Christ. He is our wellness, the wholeness above all else. This wellness is seen in believing in Jesus, being drenched in His mercy, receiving His forgiveness, being a healthy and frequent recipient of the healing medicine of His gifts, in short—having a living relationship to the Doctor of Souls. And Jesus Christ sees that we have received all He’s freely given, and gives us this good diagnosis of health: “Go, your faith has made you well!” Amen.



Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

  1. Read Luke 17:11-19. Was the relationship between Jews and Samaritans friendly or not? How did they act toward each other? John 4:9. What did lepers have to do to keep themselves apart from the healthy community? Leviticus 13:45-46.
  2. Imagine being a leper. What would it be like to live under those circumstances? What feelings and hardships would you face?
  3. Why should we not hide from the lessons of history, but learn from them? At the right time Jesus entered human history. Galatians 4:4-7. What did He come to do?
  4. What made the Samaritan different from the others who had been healed? Luke 17:15-19. Who did he acknowledge for his healing? Vs. 19, the phrase “made you well” has a double meaning, of “has saved you.” What greater gift did He receive from Jesus by faith?
  5. Why is faith not trusting in yourself? What (or who?) does faith need to attach to? Mark 11:22; Acts 3:16; 20:21. What does this faith in Jesus receive? Romans 3:26; 4:16; Acts 26:18.
  6. What’s Jesus solution for the “big problems” of sin, death, and the devil? How can we afford this protection and “coverage?”
  7. Explain why worship is a “W” and not an “M”. Why do Christians come to worship every Sunday, year after year? What do we find or receive there?
  8. Our reading pictures physical wellness and spiritual wellness together. What effort do we invest in either or both kinds of wellness? Who is the true Giver of spiritual wellness? When He has given it, and we have received it, what good diagnosis does He speak? Luke 17:19


Monday, September 11, 2017

Sermon on Luke 10:23-37, for the 13th Sunday after Trinity (1 Yr. lectionary), "The Good Samaritan"

To know and to do—very different things (P. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary). Jesus established that the teacher knew the Law correctly—but to do it is a far greater matter. A great many good things we know we ought to do, by the 10 Commandments, but how much harder is it to do than to simply know? A child may know their parents told them not to fight with their siblings—but doing it…
Jesus teaches the Law’s promise: “Do this and you shall live”. That’s all well and good if you can do it, but if you don’t do it? Gal. 3:10-11 tells us this very command becomes a curse to us, because “cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.””
Teacher wanted to justify himself. Betrays his motive. Wants the law to do what the law cannot do, because of our sinfulness. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22). Law can’t give life—only the promise of Jesus Christ gives life. Last week: the letter (law) kills; the spirit gives life.
Law commands good things—love God with heart, soul, mind, strength. (self-examination—how is our love?) Love neighbor as ourselves (self-exam—how broad and expansive the command, and how short our love?) Prayer of the day: “give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ”.
Parable shows how the law is not given to give us life, but for us to love our neighbor. By trying to give the law an “unlawful motive” the teacher tried to narrow the law down enough so he could justify himself. But in wishing for the law to be narrowly defined, he would have left his Samaritan “enemies” and others out of the command. Jesus blows open the narrowing and legalizing that even we are tempted to do.  “legalizing” might come up with definitions of who is and isn’t my neighbor, how much and how far I am required to help. Turn the law into a “low bar” that we can achieve. But the parable teaches: Who is my neighbor? Everyone! Better yet, you are to be the neighbor to whomever  is in need! The law is not about who they are, and whether they fit the bill for you serving them—it’s about who you are to be—a merciful neighbor, regardless of whom you are asked to help or show compassion to.
There is a chilling coldness in the actions of the priest and Levite, who have the appearance of religion, but who pass by on the other side of the road. By contrast, just look at how Americans have pulled together regardless of race, religion, political affiliation, social status, etc, to help each other in Texas. Loving the neighbor doesn’t examine who they are—it examines who we are. What kind of person am I? A neighbor to the person in need, or a pious priest or Levite who ignores the suffering? When we reexamine our obedience to the command “Love your neighbor as yourself” in this light, it becomes clear just how earnestly we need to pray: “give us an increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain what You have promised, make us love what You have commanded; through Jesus Christ”. God, we need that increase! God wants this. He wants hearts humbled and hungry for His mercy, open to being vessels of His love to our neighbors.
Reflect on how you are called to be a neighbor to someone in need. It may cause you cost, delay, inconvenience, discomfort, messiness, etc. But that is God’s calling, to love our neighbors. But remember that Christ has freed you from the law, so you are free for God’s love to flow through you to them! Shape of service will look different, but generous, compassionate, love—same.
Examine the Good Samaritan—no law could adequately describe what he did—not to prescribe how much help to give, or what form it should take. Not a minimal effort. But he goes above and beyond, bandaging wounds, incurring expenses, inconvenience and delay—not to mention he would have been eyed suspiciously since Jews hated Samaritans. Wine, oil, time, physical exertion, extra expense, promise to pay overages on return. Not extravagant, but his kindness is not restricted or measured, rationed or withheld—it is generous.
Reminds me of Galatians 5:22 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” And 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”  The fruit of the Spirit is a love that goes above and beyond the law. Generous, without rationing or restriction.
Whose love can this better describe, than that of Jesus? We of course, were dead in our trespasses and sins. The curse of the law is inevitable doom for us, who stand under its judgment. But Christ comes, to perform a costly act of self-sacrifice and service that goes far beyond what the just law of God demands. Even greater than the acts of the Good Samaritan, Jesus perfected love, by incurring the greatest cost imaginable—surrendering His own life to death on the cross for us. And not just a human life offered in sacrifice—which is great in itself—but the very precious blood of God Himself, as Paul says in Acts 20:28, commanding pastors to “care for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood.” The precious blood of God’s Son, no costlier gift can be given to mankind. He came into “enemy territory”, facing the hatred and scorn of those who wanted to crucify Him—but He was not deterred from helping the wounded, the left for dead. Jesus came to earth and saw that we were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”, and He did not pass by on the other side; He did not stay away to keep Himself from getting defiled by meeting us in our injury and death, but He had compassion on us, and came to help.
Jesus binds up our wounds (traumata)—brings us healing. “Surely by His stripes we are healed”. Jesus is the master healer of both body and soul, as His numerous miracles prove. It is His hands, His balm, and His healing Words that must but applied to the traumas of our bodies, hearts, and souls. For our dying bodies, He proclaims His resurrection from the grave, and ours to follow Him. For our sin-sick hearts, He gives a new heart and a new spirit within us, turning our  hearts up to Him. For our lost souls, He buys us redemption and healing by God’s precious blood.
He brings us to the inn of the church, as our hymn says: “Unto his church my steps he led, The house prepared for sinners lost; Gave charge I should be clothed and fed; And took upon him all the cost.” (John Newton, The Good Samaritan). Here we are a hospital for sinners—so you should not expect to see the healthy, but the sick, who are in need of mercy. Mercy given, mercy needed, mercy received—these things you should see.
And Jesus promises to return again, and all our restoration, all the expense of our recovery, is on His tab. He is good for it. Because the law was not given for our righteousness, or to give us life—but Jesus Christ is given for our righteousness. That is the Gospel, the Good News! There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life! We can only be given it, by faith in Jesus. He gifts eternal life—we don’t earn it. This freedom from trying to justify ourselves, gives us the liberty to love our neighbor as ourselves, not for personal gain or spiritual advancement, but from a new definition of who we are—a neighbor to show mercy to whomever needs it. Grant us an increase of faith, hope and charity, oh Lord! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1. The parable of the Good Samaritan begins with a teacher of the law asking Jesus a couple of questions: 1) What shall I do to inherit eternal life? and 2) who is my neighbor? Jesus answers the first question with a ______ and the second question He answers by telling a ______. (Luke 10:25-30).
2. In Luke 10:29, we see that the motive of the teacher was to justify himself, when he asked “who is my neighbor?” Why is our “justification” not a motive (purpose) of God’s law? Galatians 3:21. If the law can’t justify us, how are we justified? Galatians 3:22-24.
3. If we examine ourselves, do we find that we have kept the law, by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves? How have we fallen short? Roman 3:23. If we have not perfectly kept the law, how does it leave us? Galatians 3:10; 2 Corinthians 3:6-7 (cf. Luke 10:30). If we are dead, and cannot help ourselves, where does God’s Word turn us for rescue? Ephesians 2:5.
4. What is so discouraging about what the priest and the Levite did in the story? Why did they avoid helping? Why was it so surprising that a Samaritan would stop to help? Cf. John 4:9-10.
5. How did the Samaritan go “above and beyond” the call of ordinary kindness? Luke 10:34-35.
6. When Jesus answers the question with this parable, He changes it from a question of “who is my neighbor” to “who am I to be a neighbor for?” What is the answer to this question?
7. How is Jesus the ultimate “Good Samaritan?” How did He come as the unexpected helper? How was He despised by those He came to save? Acts 4:11. How did Jesus go “above and beyond” to show His love for us, and rescue us from every evil? 1 Peter 1:18-19. How is the church like the “inn” where we are nursed back to health? 1 Corinthians 12:25-27

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 3:4-11, for the 12th Sunday after Trinity (1 Year Lectionary), "Our Sufficiency is Christ"

Note: for the full audio of the sermon, check out my podcast. This is a limited outline.
Corinthian letters—1st to an immature, conflicted, error-filled church; yet still called “saints”. 2nd, to a more mature congregation, rejoicing over the reconciliations and growth that had happened in their midst, and reflecting on his own ministry to them.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. What is this confidence? Vs. 1-3 “do we need letters of recommendation (referral letters) among you? You  are our letter, written on human hearts by Christ! We’re the messengers, you are sent out to the world! (way of talking about how Christian’s are to be living representatives, salt and light of Christ to the world). World experiences Christ’s love through you (or doesn’t experience…aren’t reading God’s Word, reading you).
Is this Paul taking credit for them? 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. If God is working through us, or in us—we don’t have any room to take credit for that. All credit to God! Sufficiency= ability, competence, comes from God. Not my degrees, not your strength, not cleverness, good speech, all kinds of pastors and ministers—not the person that matters, not their personality, skillset, etc, but God’s Word working through them. You also—the Gospel of Jesus works through you, but not because we add something to it or “help it out”. Not “the ball’s in your court now, and I’m measuring your performance for salvation”—then we’d need to be sufficient in ourselves, but our sufficiency is in Christ.
New covenant—old covenant. Not a simple contrast of OT to NT, but Law to Gospel. “letter kills”= Law, “Spirit gives life”= Gospel. Two different ministries, both with glory and God’s approval, but the later one, the latter one—the Gospel, is superior in every way.
Letter kills, ministry of death, condemnation, (sounds negative, but is the law a negative?) 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. … I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me… 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Law is good, holy, righteous, but it can only shine the light on the evil we have done. It has no power to save. Without the law, we would pursue evil unhindered, to our own harm. Continually exposes our sin, until we cry for God’s mercy. With only the light of the glory of the law shining on us, we only see how we have fallen short of God’s glory. But in the light of the Gospel our eyes are turned to Jesus, the Savior, we see Him with unveiled face.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? Moses on Sinai, fading glory, brilliant glory. Outshone by the new covenant, of the Spirit, of Christ.
Ruled under a ministry of the law, of death, of condemnation, we would be miserable. Guilty consciences, terror before God, no peace; perhaps anger, resentment, excuse making, denial—but no true love or obedience. True obedience doesn’t come through fear, but love.
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Ministry of righteousness, permanent, surpassing glory—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ministry of righteousness—God bestowing, Christ granting—only righteousness that is worth anything is that which rises to God’s own level of perfection. Anything short of it is not sufficient. Sufficient also means that something is enough, that it’s completed, and doesn’t need additions. So it is with our salvation. Full deal.
Difference between a salvation by faith in Jesus + _____  This means Jesus’ work is not sufficient. We have to add anything. But add anything to Jesus, and really you have subtracted something from His total perfection. Faith in Jesus + nothing! It is all by His grace, all sufficient for us. Luther’s great rediscovery of the gospel—the righteous will live by faith—ministry of righteousness, is bringing Jesus’ righteousness into the lives of all who will hear. Corinthians, Americans, Hawaiians, Filipinos, Japanese whoever will hear and believe, have been served, ministered to, with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You become written letters. I can boast of nothing in myself, but only that my sufficiency for this ministry is not in me. I can not claim anything has come from me. But you are living letters, proof of God’s work in your lives—proof that Jesus’ spirit makes you alive, and redeems you from sin-dead ways to new life in the Spirit. Your lives, as they meet with others, all through families and communities, are a message written on human hearts, of God’s love in Christ Jesus, for you.
Nothing to boast of in yourself, only to rejoice that He’s alive in you, and that Our Sufficiency—our whole power to live and continue to serve—rests 100% in Him. He will equip and supply everything we need, all glory goes to Him, and this glory will never fade. Rejoice, you are His! You are righteous in the Son!

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 2:16-17; 3:1-3. How is Paul describing the challenges and emotions that he and those who ministered alongside him were facing? What kind of searching questions was it pushing them to ask? What did they realize about the ability to carry on and carry out the ministry, and where their sufficiency came from?
2. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul says that the Corinthians themselves are a “letter from Christ”. Who is the “mail man” who delivered the letter? What was this letter written on, and what was it written “with” (instead of ink)? What bigger point is Paul making about them through this analogy? How are we to be a “written letter” in the same way, toward the world?
3. What is meant by the “ministry of death carved in letters on stone”, and the glory of Moses’ face? Exodus 34:29-35. How did this ministry have glory? Since it is called the “ministry of death”, does that mean it was evil or harmful? Romans 7:7-20. What is the necessary purpose of the Law?
4. What is the “ministry” that far exceeds this ministry in glory? How does this “new ministry” bring life? 2 Corinthians 3:5-6; Galatians 3:2-6, 14, 24-29.
5. Why is the Gospel so much superior to the Law, even though they are both God’s Word? What does it mean to say that Jesus’ sacrifice is fully sufficient for our salvation? What does it do when we treat salvation as though the sufficiency was in ourselves, and not Him alone? What damage does it do to our ego? To our salvation? 2 Corinthians 12:5-10; Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:27. Where is our salvation and our boasting best founded and best grounded?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sermon on Genesis 4:1-15, for the 11th Sunday after Trinity (1 Year Lectionary), "My Brother's Keeper"

Note: for the full audio of the sermon, check out my podcast. This is a limited outline.
Cain and Abel—first brothers on earth, prototype of our conflicts, of worship of God, of temptation and the nature of our hearts under sin.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they gained something they didn’t have before—a knowledge of evil; and the persistent, slavish impulse to give in to it. We’ve carried that same impulse and slavery ever since. Cain is ruled over by it. “sin doesn’t take long to go right to the bottom” (Brandt).
Rejected offering. Why? Cain’s anger, and God’s warning. Genesis 4:7 “ If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Sin personified. It’s desire is contrary to you. Sin and disobedience is against our own interest, but we are blind to that. We propel ourselves further in, without consideration to our harm (physical, mental, emotional, moral, spiritual) or harm to others. God does not cripple or prevent Cain from pursuing his sin, but warns.
Would have been God’s way to be humbled and repent, to correct his course, but Cain propels further into self-destruction. Our hatred for truth that shows our guilt—anger > hate > violence > murder. Dares to deny sin and mock God: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” meant as insult to brother? Twisted words, fitting of the devil, that contain both lie and element of truth. Tease them apart:
Not my brother’s keeper, in these ways (Spurgeon): personal responsibility for actions, and guilt; for our salvation, making promises for others.
Are our brother’s keeper in these ways (Spurgeon): common humanity, kindness, interest in the salvation of each person’s soul, duty to do good for others, love your neighbor as yourself, poor and needy, example of Christ’s complete unselfishness.
Can’t reject the idea of being “my brother’s keeper” wholesale, without great harm to ourselves or our brothers. Danger of “American individualism” and failing to recognize bonds of brotherhood, family and community bonds, common humanity (against racism), participation in something greater than your individual self, loyalty. In the right sense, my brother’s keeper shows we look out for each other, help, support, encourage, etc.
If only they had brotherly love!! 1 John 3:11-12 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Danger of jealousy and resentment! Purge those thoughts before they take root! Do not brood or nurture evil thoughts!
God’s mercy, even in the curse and punishment on Cain—mark of protection. Small comfort, but spared his life. We can know forgiveness, even while experiencing consequences.
Childbirth, even under the most ordinary circumstances is an incredibly difficult but also amazing experience. How much more so, after Adam and Eve heard promises from God, after their sin, that childbirth would become very difficult for her, and that one of her offspring would be born to crush the head of the serpent (i.e. defeat the devil), AND this was the first childbirth in history or that they ever witnessed or experienced. Can they be blamed for thinking that perhaps the Messiah was already born to them? At the very least, her statement: “I have gotten a man of the Lord!” hints at her hopefulness and trust in God’s promise of a deliverer.
She was right to hope in the promise, wrong if she located it in her son.
Gospel: Deliverer-Messiah, Eve’s offspring, crush the serpent
Jesus’ blood speaks a “better word” than the blood of Abel (innocent bloodshed, shepherd, cries for forgiveness, mercy).
Jesus is the truest “Brother’s Keeper” as He laid down His life for us, willingly struck down for our sin, shedding innocent blood to cry out “Forgive Them!” for us.
In baptism we are joined to Jesus, the “New Adam”, and receive something we didn’t have before—an impulse to obey God’s will, do what is pleasing and right—but still at war with the “old Adam” our sinful nature. Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom. 7). Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Jesus, our true brother, the deliverer promised to A & E, the New Adam!

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1. Read Genesis 4:1-15. Cain and Abel were the first children born on earth. Why did God accept Abel’s offering, and not Cain’s? What was different about how they worshipped God? (v. 3-7), Hebrews 4:4; 1 John 3:12; Proverbs 15:8. Why does God desire our “first fruits” as offering? How is it an expression of faith? Exodus 13:12; Proverbs 3:9-10.
2. Note in Genesis 4:5-7, God warns Cain about his anger before Cain murders Abel. Why is anger such a potent danger? Matthew 5:21-26; James 1:19-20; 4:1-3. What commandment is violated when we are angry or stir up hatred in our hearts? How should we respond to our own anger? Ephesians 4:26, 31; Colossians 3:8; Genesis 4:7.
3. Cain rebelliously dared to try to deny his sin before God in Genesis 4:9. How often do we try to excuse or justify our sins before God? Consider your own personal examples. Who are we fooling when we do this? 1 John 1:8-9. In what ways are we  not our brother’s keeper? In what ways are we our brother’s keeper?
4. What was Cain’s curse? Genesis 4:10-15. How did God show mercy, even as He punished Cain? What is the “better word” that Jesus’ blood speaks, than the blood of Abel? Hebrews 12:24. What is similar and what is different between Abel and Jesus? How is Jesus a true “brother’s keeper” to us and all people?
5. Finally, what is our deliverance from our anger, and other sins? James 1:21; Romans 7:21-8:8. How does Eve show her faith in the promise of Genesis 3:15, by mistakenly concluding she gave birth to “a man, the Lord” (Gen. 4:1, literal reading)? Though Cain was not the Messiah, she was right to believer in the promise that God would send one to defeat the serpent.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sermon on Luke 19:41-48, for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, "He Himself is Our Peace"


·         Palm Sunday entry: meets both praise and rejection. Jesus weeps over the grim consequences of their rejection. Passing up a golden opportunity. As if shooting both the messenger and the doctor who holds the cure.
·         God’s heart—Jesus’ bitter anguish—you don’t know what you’re refusing! He sees a great evil coming upon them, that is now irreversible—the destruction of Jerusalem and this temple. And bitterest of all, was they were bringing this upon themselves by rejecting the things that make for peace. Jesus laments: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
·         Peace was presented to them—Jesus’ was God’s visitation to Israel, on earth. But they wanted to destroy Him. (still there were some who hung on His every word—captivated by Jesus). “peace” and “visitation” themes from Luke 1. Zechariah sings of coming Messiah: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people”… “ because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68, 76-79). Also angels at Jesus’ birth came to sing of “peace on earth, good will to men” (Luke 2:14).
·         Ephesians (2:14) says “He Himself is our peace”. But they don’t know the things that make for peace. Blinded to them, rejecting Jesus, wanting to destroy Him. Threat to power and ego, exposing sin, greed. Casting out the money changers and corruption in the temple. Mockery of God. House of prayer, or den of thieves?
·         Bulletin quote asks, do we understand today where our peace comes from? Does Christ find people who want to know Him; His peace? Humbled to listen, and turn? Do we hear, or refuse His Word, when it corrects us for our “new bad habits or negligence?” Still today Jesus is a threat to our power, our ego, our greed. Still today He calls us to conform to His ways, not the ways of the world. But how often do we instead choose the things that make for war, for violence, for hatred, and strife? When God’s Word corrects us, are we confessing those things to God, or do we refuse the message? Does Jesus mourn over us? Find a house of prayer or den of robbers? What’s in our heart? Repenting, or defying Jesus? Following Him with praises, or mocking His teachings.
·         Our country is filled with strife, stoking tensions and inflaming emotions. Ugly riots last weekend displayed hatred, racism, escalating into violence and a murderous act of terrorism. Anger, clubs, fists, and violence ruled the day, instead of respect for life or attempts at peace. “Do we know the things that make for peace?” It seems clear that we do not. Public square, homes, churches, the devil is always ready to stoke conflict and division. People may scoff at the peace that Jesus brings—but so they did on the Palm Sunday Jesus rode in.
·         Peace of Jesus: Forgiveness of sins, His payment for our wrongs; peace the world cannot give, peace with God, ministry of reconciliation to work in us to reconcile with one another. Love, respect, value for life, all the foundations of peace that Jesus brings and establishes. How well have our human solutions for peace worked? What have they brought? Some people blame religion for wars, but Jesus never promoted His mission by warfare, violence, or hatred, and all who do so invalidate their claims and can never truly claim His name.
·         “…Did not know the time of your visitation” Law visitations, gospel visitations. Jesus was on earth to bring Gospel, good news, mercy—but it was rejected. Because of this rejection, Jerusalem would be horribly destroyed, with all its inhabitants. Massive death toll in 70 AD, starvation, in-fighting, siege. All the warnings went unheeded.
·         “But all the people were hanging on His words.” A remnant believed. For them Jesus’ visitation was still gracious and for blessing. Jesus knows we need His peace, His merciful visitation. He weeps for those who reject Him—does not weep for His own death, but goes forward uncomplaining.  Bears our sins, buries them in His grave.
·         Another day of visitation coming: Jesus’ 2nd return—Judgment and salvation. Some for blessing—all who long and hope for His return. Some for judgment, who despise His Word, turn away from peace. He warns that before this return, all sorts of evil must befall the world. And today as we see wars and rumors of wars, and the love of many growing cold, just as Jesus said, our hearts can become burdened and heavy. But Jesus is the one “to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And do not forget that He is still alive! He calls us to cast our burdens on Him, and to lift up our heads for our redemption draws near.  We do not need to be afraid, because all who long for His redemption will find it, and once again we may sing with Zechariah: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people!  Amen, Come Lord Jesus!


Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com


  1. Luke 19:41-48 follows just after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (19:28-40). Who accepted Jesus’ coming, and who rejected it? (19:37-39). As Jesus faced His coming death on the cross, who was He weeping for? Luke 19:41-42. What was deeply tragic about their rejection? What were they pushing away or refusing? Luke 19:42, 44.
  2. What are “the things that make for peace?” Who guides people into the “way of peace?” Luke 1:77-79; 2:14; 10:5-6; Acts 10:36; Romans 14:17-19 (see also Isaiah 2:4). What kind of peace does Jesus bring? John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 16:20.
  3. Why do we lack peace today? Who blinded the eyes of the people, and why? John 12:37-43. How were some of the people still responding positively to Jesus’ teachings? Luke 19:48. What would it have looked like if the entire response of the people (and leaders) had been positive to Jesus’ coming/visitation? How would they have received His teaching? His cleansing of the Temple?
  4. What horrible fate was coming their way? Luke 19:43-44. What happened in 70 AD was the brutal and total destruction of Jerusalem, and enormous numbers of inhabitants died from war, starvation, and infighting.
  5. What is the significance of Jesus’ phrase in v. 44 about “the time of your visitation?” What “visit” is it talking about? Cf. Luke 1:68, 78; 7:16. What determines whether the “visitation” is for “Law purposes” or “Gospel purposes?” ex. Luke 1:68; Exodus 32:34
  6. How was God’s Temple being corrupted and misused?
  7. Though Jesus is mourning Jerusalem and prophesying destruction, yet He is also the only hope for their salvation, and when He was “destroyed” by the leaders, He destroyed sin and death. How was Jesus’ visitation purposeful and powerful to accomplish all He aimed? What did He accomplish? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sermon on 2 Samuel 22:26-34, for the 9th Sunday after Trinity, "Merciful, Blameless, and Pure"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. It’s great to be with the saints of God on Kauai! Greetings from Emmanuel Lutheran Church on Maui, and I’m thankful to be able to bring God’s Word to you. The Old Testament reading, 2 Samuel 22, really struck my attention a few years ago—especially these verses: With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. This entire chapter is also found in Psalm 18. King David sang it on the day when God delivered him from all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He was rather young when he was delivered from Saul, but in the book of Samuel, this song shows up just before his last words at death. Maybe he wrote it as a young man, but it also seemed a fitting bookend for his life. But more importantly, it describes how God is a refuge, strength, and shield; He protects the humble, but defeats the proud.
But what do these verses mean: With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous? Three positive qualities—mercy, blamelessness, and purity; and one negative quality—being crooked. Whichever of these qualities we reflect, so God will seem toward us. The Bible is very clear that God wants us to be merciful. We are to forgive and love even our enemies. Be compassionate to those who are suffering or burdened. Help those in need. Mercy is essential to who God is. So with the merciful, you show yourself merciful, makes perfect sense.
But who is merciful first? It sounds like we see God’s mercy if we are first merciful ourselves. Jesus also said in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Both passages highlight that even as we show mercy to others, we also need mercy ourselves. Our sins, our weaknesses, our doubts all should drive us to cry out passionately to God, Lord, have mercy! Mercy begins in reality, not from us, but from Him; God richly showing mercy to us, so that we may be merciful to others. So while David says, with the merciful, you show yourself merciful—remember that the whole Psalm begins: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.” David is praising God, not himself. And who is God? He is a refuge, salvation, and defense against all enemies. Likewise, mercy is first God’s work toward us, and then from us toward others. Even as we are shaped into merciful servants of God, God is ever showing His mercy to us.
With the blameless man you show yourself blameless. The phrase “blameless man” could be translated “upright champion” or “blameless hero”. Along with the next phrase: with the pure, you show yourself pure, it praises integrity or moral purity. God of course is unstained by sins, faults, and errors, and truly any person who has integrity and blameless conduct is a hero or champion. So far, these three virtues: merciful, blameless, and pure, describe what God desires of the saints, the holy people of God. God wants His saints to be honest, trustworthy, pure in thought, word and deed, as He is merciful, blameless, and pure. God sent Jesus who lived out all of these virtues as the perfect man. He is the true “blameless hero” or “upright champion”.
But can such a person be found among the rest of men? Where are the merciful, the godly, or the blameless? Some of the Psalms make it sound like they’ve entirely vanished from the earth (Psalm 12:2; Micah 7:2). Others speak of God preserving them for Himself (Ps. 4:4; 37:28). Psalm 14 (also quoted in Romans) says there is no one righteous, not one, among all mankind. But that same Psalm expresses hope that God will send out salvation from Zion. You see, apart from God, there really are no righteous, no blameless or pure people. No one who is faithful to God or seeks after him. Apart from God we all stumble, err, and sin, and receive the just penalty for our evil works. Apart from God, none of us are merciful, blameless, or pure, to see God in these same ways. But only by God’s mercy, He preserves and keeps a people for Himself. A people who can rightly be called godly, by His mercy alone.
But now we come to that last negative phrase: with the crooked, you make yourself seem tortuous. David, to his own dismay, lived this one out. David made his way crooked by letting the power of his kingdom go to his head. Getting many wives? No problem! Lust after Bathsheba, wife of another man? Who could stop him? Cover up the illicit pregnancy? His generals will see that Uriah gets killed. The twisted web that David spun grew into a tangle of lies that would make God seem torturous to David. David would later confess about the whole thing, that while he remained in his sins, and did not confess them to God, his bones wasted away through…groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer (Ps. 32:3-4). God seemed torturous, because he was trying to hide his sin from God. His sin gave him no rest. But when David confessed his sins to the Lord, he experienced the joy and release of God’s forgiveness, the blessedness of God covering his sin and not counting it against him (Ps. 32-1-5). Then, in Psalm 32:6, David calls on the merciful or godly, to encourage the sinner to call on the Lord: Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found. Where do we find the godly man? Wherever God’s forgiveness is at work, and He has answered our prayers of repentance.
From Psalm 32 back to 2 Samuel (or Psalm 18), we find God’s forgiveness at work in both places. David boldly speaks of his righteousness, blamelessness, and cleanness—but He also says God made his way blameless (v. 33), and that his cleanness is in God’s sight. The only way we become clean in God’s sight, is by forgiveness—the washing away of our sins by Jesus’ precious blood. God, by His mercy, turned David’s crooked path back into a straight one, by the working of the Law and the Gospel. So also God in His mercy sends us servants of His Word, to “prepare the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight.”
When we hear that God shows Himself merciful, blameless, pure, or even torturous to us, don’t mistake this that we change or transform God by our behavior. God is who He is, in Himself, and our actions don’t change that. But God deals differently with us whether we are faithful, or are wicked. A good example is in the parable of the talents, where two servants love their master and want to please him and work hard and responsibly, and they are rewarded. But the third servant dreads the master, and does nothing with what he’s given. The way he sees the master influences his own actions—or lack of action. And he’s rewarded according to his laziness and irresponsibility. He loses even the little that was given to him. In the same way, if we are twisted or corrupt, like David in his times of great sin, or like the unfaithful servant, the judgment of God will weigh heavy on us, and God will seem a cruel or harsh master.
But our own sin and corruption twists our sight, so we see God in this way. Many whose hearts are set on evil, never see the True God in Jesus Christ, because their eyes are so blinded by sin. God can’t be a friend and supporter evil hearts. Rather, God must rescue us from evil things. Jesus must open the eyes of the blind. The next verse of the Psalm, says, “You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.” God will bring down the proud—Jesus echoes this theme over and over through the Gospels—He will not tolerate arrogance and pride. But God saves a humble people. When the Law of God has humbled us—when we mourn our sins like David, crying out in confession and anguish to God, God forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. When the Law of God shows that there is no one godly or faithful left in the land—the Gospel shows us a blameless hero, the upright and pure man Jesus Christ, who came to show us mercy, and to save us and create a remnant for Himself. When the Law of God has straightened out our crooked paths, and set before us the perfect way of the Lord, the Gospel shows us that Jesus is the Way.
By Jesus’ mercy and blameless and pure life, He makes you a godly people, a people of mercy. People of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion to others, even as God has shown it to you. This God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. God makes you sons and daughters in Christ, in the waters of holy baptism. Just as surely as you plunge down under the waters covered with your sins and blemishes, so surely does God raise you up out of those waters merciful, blameless and pure. Washed in Him, you have no spot or blemish; Jesus has borne all your sins away. And so you can who see God as He truly is—merciful, blameless, and pure—because that is how we know Jesus—the perfect Son of God, sent to us. Day by day, whenever our twisted sinful nature rears its ugly head, and tries to push us down a crooked path to destruction, we take up the strength of the Lord and crucify that old sinful nature by repentance. We confess our sins to God as David learned to do—purging out the old sin by God’s promise to forgive, cleanse, and make us new. And so in this daily struggle, we also witness the daily rising of the new person—merciful, blameless, and pure in God’s sight, because it is God my strong refuge who has made my way blameless. (2 Sam. 22:33). And so we learn to delight in His will and walk in His ways, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com


  1. Read 2 Samuel 22, the whole chapter (duplicated in Psalm 18). What caused David to write this (vs 1), and when in his lifetime does it appear in the narrative of 2 Samuel? What are the main themes of the Psalm?
  2. What is the general point in verses 26-27, about the qualities we embody, and how God shows Himself to us? Who is merciful first—God or us? See also Matthew 5:7. How does the opening of the Psalm (2 Samuel 22:2-3) set the stage to understand who is the “original actor” in salvation?
  3. The phrase “blameless man” could be translated as “upright champion” or “blameless hero.” What qualities does this describe? Who is such a person, and where can such a person be found? Compare/contrast Psalm 12:2; Micah 7:2; Psalm 4:4; 37:28; all of Psalm 14.
  4. With the last phrase, “with the crooked, you make yourself seem torturous,” what is this saying? How did David live this out at significant times in his life? What was the spiritual impact of not confessing his sins? Psalm 32:3-4. How did that change when he confessed? Psalm 32:1-5. What does David call upon the “godly” (same word as “merciful” in 2 Samuel 22:26) to do in Psalm 32:6?
  5. How does God’s forgiveness create a merciful, blameless, and pure people? In whose sight is this true? 2 Samuel 22:25, 33. How does God change our way from a “crooked way” to a “straight path?” 2 Samuel 22:33; Luke 3:4-6.
  6. How does one’s perception of God influence one’s actions? Cf. 2 Samuel 22:26-27 to Matthew 25:14-30. How does God oppose the proud? What does He do for the humble?
  7. How is Jesus our “blameless hero”? How is baptism related to how He makes you a merciful, blameless, and pure people? Ephesians 5:25-27; Romans 6:1-11. Because of this new reality, how do we see God? Matthew 5:7-8. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 7:15-23, for the 8th Sunday after Trinity (1 Yr Lectionary), "True Disciples know the True Christ"

·         Sermon on the Mount: One of Jesus’ most important teachings—goes on for 3 Ch’s, (5-7). 7:15-23 is almost the end. Big structure—sermon has an “entrance” and “exit”. (Dr. Jeff Gibbs). This passage is approaching the exit—people “enter” by way of the Beatitudes—Jesus’ description of the blessed life of discipleship and humility (with persecutions!). Main part of sermon on the Mount is directed to “you” the listener, and the teaching of Jesus about godliness, possessions, and people—and now these closing verses: disciple “exits” to the world aware of challenges and dangers surrounding the narrow path to life.
·         15-23, about false prophets vs. true prophets. How to recognize and guard against: wolves in sheep’s clothing. Deceptive appearance/sheep’s clothing (charming, loving, appealing, etc) fool many people. Pass themselves off as Christians or genuine prophets, but are “ravening wolves”. Insatiable appetite to devour, to deceive for personal gain (swindle). Diseased tree, thornbush, thistle. No good fruit, only rotten.
·         “You will recognize them by their fruits”. What is the “fruit” of a true or false prophet? Their teachings, first of all, but also their works. Are they teaching according to the pure Gospel of Christ, or “another gospel?” know the genuine to detect a fake. Know the Jesus confessed in the Creed: In other words, the True Son of God, born at a particular time and space, in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, of human mother but no earthly father—child of the Heavenly Father, taught in Israel, hated and put forward for death by the religious authorities, crucified under the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, buried, but rose up to life again after 3 days. Real man, real God, real death, real bodily resurrection. Accomplished all of salvation for us, without our cooperation, help, or effort. Know this true Christ; don’t fall for fakes. A “Jesus” by any contrary description is not  the real deal! Those who follow a false Christ will cry: “Lord, Lord”—but Jesus says, “I never knew you!”
·         Jesus warns against those who proclaim false christs (Matthew 24). Ex:  A “Jesus” who is not true God, or true man, or a historical person. A “Jesus” who is not able to save you completely from sins, but is just a “kickstarter” to get you on your way, or a “coach” who will guide you to do yourself…, but who can’t do anything to help you, unless you first “help yourself.” A “Jesus” who didn’t literally walk out of His grave with a living body, but just lives in people’s “hearts” or imagination. Anything short of Lord and Savior—is not the true Christ—If you don’t have the real Jesus, then it’s a false prophet who is teaching.
·         Could someone slip an imposter into your life? A look-a-like, a clever actor? Perhaps they could fool you if it was someone relatively unfamiliar to you—even if you see them often in passing. Maybe the regular grocery clerk, or a bank teller, or maybe even a doctor you see once a year. If the fraud was clever, they might fool you. But it would get increasingly difficult the more familiar the person was to you. A close relationship, a friend, a family member. They couldn’t pass off the fake because you know the person too well. How is it with Jesus? Do you have passing familiarity? Someone you know deeply, and are ever desiring to know more? Do you know Him, as though He were a member of your own family—your dear brother in God? Or just an occasional familiar face? If we know the real Jesus, we won’t fall for fakes. If we don’t know much about WHO He is, then we just might fall for the work of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
·         As the hymn sings: On my heart imprint your image, blessed Jesus King of grace. That life’s riches, cares and pleasures never may Your work erase; let the clear inscription be: Jesus crucified for me, is my life my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation! (LSB 422)
·         Who enters the kingdom of heaven? Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord!” but “the one who does the will of [Jesus’] Father in heaven. What is the Father’s will? John 6:38–40 Jesus defines the Father’s will. “38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
·         We enter heaven by doing the Father’s will, which is to look upon the Son and believe in Him for eternal life. True prophets and true disciples get to heaven by believing in Jesus.
·         False prophets will try to hijack Jesus’ name and ride on His coattails, but because they bore a different fruit, proclaimed a false message, were workers of lawlessness; they will be consigned to hellfire with the demons. Whatever their works, even purported miracles (done by the power of the devil), are worthless. All their work is summarized by Jesus as “lawlessness”. Workers of lawlessness. No regard for God’s law. Teaching their own law instead, or ignoring and lessening God’s law. By this false work they mock God’s Word.
·         True prophet bears good fruit, a true teaching and godly works, directed to Jesus Christ, salvation in Him. Christians have to be discerning, and we have to know the authentic Christ, so we discern those whose identity is not in Him come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The wise and discerning will avoid their traps, and listen only to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. In Him, we dwell in safety and in Him we have entrance into the joys and blessedness of eternal life. Together with all the faithful listeners through all ages, who hear Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount—we exit the sermon, having been warned of the pitfalls that surround discipleship, and going forward on the path that leads to eternal life in Him. We go forth in peace and serve the Lord; Thanks be to God!


Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen at:  http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com


  1. Read the entire Sermon on the Mount in a single sitting, when you have the opportunity (Matthew chapters 5-7). Note how 5:3-12 serves as a “doorway”—the Gospel blessings by which we enter the sermon; and 7:13-27 serves as an “exit” where Jesus leads us back into the world “with eyes wide open to the challenges and danger” we will face (Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs). Notice also how these “doorway” and “exit” sections transition from the 3rd person (they) to 2nd person (you), and how nearly the whole middle section of the sermon teaches in the 2nd person (you).
  2. What dangers does the disciple face as he or she reenters the world, informed by Jesus’ teaching? In 7:15-23, what are the characteristics of the false prophets? How are they betrayed? What gives them their success in misleading others?
  3. What is the “fruit” of a true or false prophet? How do we avoid being “taken in” by a fraud or a fake, when false prophets teach a false Christ? What does Jesus say to those who have followed a fake? 7:21-23
  4. What are some examples of “false christs” that are proclaimed today? How do we know they are not the true Christ who alone saves?
  5. Who enters the kingdom of heaven, by doing the will of the Father? What is the Father’s will? John 6:38-40.
  6. What is the fate of false prophets and the devil and his False Prophet? Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 20:10. Why is their work summarized as “lawlessness”? Matthew 23:28; 24:12; 1 John 3:4; Jude 4.
  7. Who is our entrance into eternal life? How do we know His Voice and Name? John 10. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sermon on Genesis 2:7-17, for the 7th Sunday after Trinity (1 Yr Lectionary), "Man of Dust, Man of Heaven"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today’s Old Testament reading from Genesis 2 is one of the few brief glimpses of life in the goodness and perfection that God made us for, before mankind’s fall into sin. It’s also a foundational Bible passage of who we are and what we were created for as human beings. God makes Adam in the midst of the Garden of Eden—the original paradise.
So who are we? The creation of mankind comes as the highest and most tender parts of the story of existence—God had made everything else which was good—all living plants and animals. But then He pulls aside and with special care and attention, as a potter working with raw clay to make a new vessel, and God personally shapes and forms Adam out of the dust of the earth. His very chemistry was linked to the ground that God would give him to farm. And yes, after Adam sinned, God would promise “dust you are, and to dust you shall return”—Adam would die and return to the earth from which he came, as all children of Adam one day do. But marvelously, we are so much more than mere animated dust, or just biochemical machines. God stooped down to the lifeless form of Adam, which He had hand-made from the dust—and God breathes into “his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” What a “breath-giving” statement!
Mankind shares the basic biology with animals, and yet is unique and distinct from the animals. No others were created in this way, but to man alone God breathed in the breath of life—face to face. In Hawaiian culture, the or “breath of life” is considered sacred, and the ancient form of Hawaiian greeting was to breathe nose to nose in a warm and welcoming gesture. It certainly echoes something of that same reality, when God breathed or the breath of life into Adam. God made mankind His special creation, a unique and distinct kind from the animals; a spiritual creature. We are not evolved from subhuman ancestors, but were specially made, man and woman, in God’s own image.
1 Corinthians 15, the great chapter about the Resurrection of the body, goes back to this verse to explain both our bodies now, and our future bodies in the resurrection. Paul writes: 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam [Jesus] became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man [Adam] was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man [Jesus] is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.(1 Cor. 15:45-49). Some of this we’ll return to later, but first note that we bear the image of the man of dust. We are flesh and blood descendants of our Father Adam, and Eve, the mother of all the living. We bear all their sin, frailty, and mortality—but also the ruined glory of God’s special creation—intelligence, creativity, speech, love, music, and all the amazing abilities from art and architecture to marathons and mountaineering. But we possess a perishing form—the image of the man of dust. We are dying, because of sin—Adam’s, and our own.
That would be a tragedy almost impossible to bear, if not for God’s plan of redemtion. But also I want to note that both of these passages establish—that our spirituality is not something that hovers above or outside of our body or flesh, but that is intimately connected to it. Our soul is not a “ghost in the machine”, waiting for some liberation from the body, but we are living souls in a fleshly existence. Death, or what’s sometimes described as the separation of body and soul, is an unnatural thing. God didn’t make us for that. But the beauty of the 1 Corinthians passage, is that Paul is driving home the point that as we have born the image of the man of dust—Adam—we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven—Jesus. We will have a spiritual body in heaven, but it will be a body, like Jesus’. The resurrected body of Jesus that bore the tell-tale scars of His crucifixion, and that dined on fish and bread with the disciples, and that was made of flesh and bones, unlike a ghost.
So this is something of what Genesis 2 says of who we are—namely creatures uniquely made in God’s image, who are living souls. But the passage goes on to explain God’s good purpose for Adam. Now remember, this is before Adam had sinned—God places him in Eden—a lush and pleasant garden that Adam is to cultivate. Verse 15: The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it. The word to “work” can also be translated to serve. It’s a simple, but obvious fact, that work was an original “good”. To cultivate and maintain the garden, would have been a delightful labor for Adam, and he would have reveled in the good fruits of his labor. It’s worth reflecting for a moment on how our own work—however God has given it to us—whether as contractors or farmers, or teachers or businessman, or parents or students—our work is meant to be a God-pleasing and faithful duty. Out of that duty we are to find satisfaction, fulfillment, the reward of labor.
But here we must also contrast the before and after of the Fall into sin. This blessed condition of work did not last, because after Adam and Eve sinned, a major part of the curse that fell upon Adam was on his work: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam’s work turned to toil, or a difficult, painful, tiresome and sweaty job. Much of the joy and delight of work was lost. We can all relate to the curse as it affects our work—but we should remember that work is in itself a good and necessary thing, and that God can still redeem and use our work for His good purposes. In fact one of the joys of the Gospel, that was celebrated and renewed in the Reformation, is that no matter what our vocation or calling in life—provided it’s not sinful or criminal—is a way of serving and honoring God.
Adam served the garden God had made—and we likewise are servants, under God our Master, who have been given a duty of stewardship, or care towards this creation. Though it’s scarred and broken in many ways through sin, God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth, is still in effect, and as God made Adam and Eve masters over the creation, so also are we to wisely steward His gifts, to show good faith to our Master for what He has entrusted to our temporary care. Stewardship of creation was an original good, and still is our duty today.
But the most important part of this passage is how God commanded Adam (note Eve had not yet been formed): “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The tree of life was there for their taking and use—but this tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. Here was a single boundary they must not cross, and must revere and honor God by obeying this command. God has perfect knowledge of all things—we call it omniscience—He knows all things, but is not harmed, tempted, deceived, or drawn in any way to evil. God hates wickedness and violence. God warned them against this evil and that choosing this tree would lead to certain death.  But Adam and Eve did not realize the poison that it would bring. Before they knew only good. Now, knowing evil, they were deceived, tempted, drawn, and harmed by it as with deadly venom. They could not erase or undo that knowledge, they could not back away from the evil that they let loose—like the fable of Pandora’s box—they could not recover from the step they had taken. The knowledge of evil now gripped them and filled them with sinful desires and guilt and shame. Their relationship with God was completely altered. It converted their loves from things that were good and pure, to lusting after what was forbidden and harmful to them. In their son’s own generation they would already see how Cain’s love for self and his own pride would become greater than the love of his brother Abel’s life. Sin distorts love.
We likewise are often deceived to think that we can handle the knowledge of evil, and all too often we pollute our eyes and minds and hearts with sinful desires and forbidden pleasures. We think that it’s no harm to know these things—but then out of our heart and mouth come “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). But St. Paul tells us what is worthy of our thoughts and knowledge in Philippians 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.
But we can’t truly know and love these things from our heart—love what is true, honorable, excellent, etc—if not for our rescue by the “man from heaven.” The other part of 1 Corinthians that we left off, is that verse: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. God did not abandon the creatures He had so lovingly made in His own image, face to face—God did not abandon Adam and Eve to suffer an irreversibly broken relationship to Him—but God from the very first gave them the promise of  redemption. He promised one of Eve’s offspring to war against and defeat the devil. He promised them Jesus, the man of heaven—God’s Son, come to earth, to take on our flesh—join Himself to our suffering, sinful, humanity, and to give victory where our entire human record is failure. To defeat sin at every turn, to have His mind set completely on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. All this Jesus knew and He loved. He was filled with a perfect knowledge and desire for what is good, and no knowledge of evil never gained mastery over Him. He resisted the devil at every turn, and resisted all the abuse, mistreatment, hatred, and tricks of those who made themselves enemies of Him. And He did it delighting in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1) and honoring God always.
And because Jesus was faithful even to death, death on a cross—that faithfulness reaped for us such a reward as a restored and healed relationship with God, by the forgiveness of sins. Such a reward as to take away the dreadful curse of that first sin—the death that holds our human race and planet captive—and for Him to burst it, so that in His life, we shall also live. And such a reward as to make us sons and daughters of God—born into His image—the image of the man of heaven. This dying form that we bear now, is going to be resurrected as He was, in the new, living image of the man of heaven—a body made for eternal life—a new and greater Paradise—and, by His Name and His blood, we’ll have access once again to the tree of Life, together with Adam and Eve, and all of the saints. This Jesus, the man of heaven, we worship for all He has done for us. Amen!  

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. What is unique about the way in which God made man (in contrast to the animals)? Genesis 2:7. What does this teach us? What did God make Adam from? What significance did this have after Adam sinned? Genesis 3:19b.
  2. Of the two specifically named trees in the garden, which were they permitted to eat? Genesis 2:9. Which did they, and what was the consequence? What significance does that tree hold in the rest of the Bible? Genesis 3:22-24; Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19.
  3. Did “work” become a part of creation before or after Adam and Eve fell into sin? Genesis 2:15 What should that teach us? What changed about the nature of work, after the curse of sin? Genesis 3:16-19. How does God redeem our work through Christ Jesus? 1 Corinthians 15:58
  4. What continuing role of stewardship do human beings have toward God’s creation? How does being a “steward” rather than just an organism within the creation, or even an owner of the creation, change how we view our responsibility?
  5. Why was eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil self-destructive? Genesis 2:16-17. Note that after they ate the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were banned from the tree of life. Once humans gained the knowledge of good and evil, they were unable to resist the evil. How did it corrupt the heart of man? Genesis 6:5-6; Matthew 15:18-19.
  6. Who gains access to the Tree of Life in heaven? Revelation 22:14; How do they “wash their robes”, in order to gain this access? Revelation 7:14. “He broke the age-bound chains of hell; the bars from heavens’ high portal fell. Let hymns of praise His triumph tell. Alleluia!” (LSB 464)