Monday, January 30, 2012

Sermon on Deuteronomy 18:15-20, for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, "The Prophet"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Moses foretells a great prophet: like him; an Israelite; God would raise Him up; God’s Words directly in His mouth; speak all of God’s commands. Recounts the episode from Mt. Horeb and Israel’s response. Booming of the law and terror of God’s majesty too fearful and great. “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” They wanted Moses to hear from God and speak to them, instead of directly. “Unmediated encounter” with God was too terrifying. God said: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Before God all masks, pretensions, pride, excuses, self-justifications fall away. Sin is exposed, and like gasoline before a fire, is consumed. Before God our sin is combustible material. Not safe. Cf. Isaiah 6 “A man of unclean lips!”. Lord says it is right that they seek a mediator instead.
2.      People sometime object against Christianity; they don’t need a “middle-man” or mediator between them and God.  As a pastor, I’m not that mediator or “middle-man” between you and God—that job is already filled by Jesus Christ! He is the One and only mediator between God and man; not an unwelcome “middle-man” who’s there to interfere or mix up the message--but God’s direct voice. Can repair our broken relationship with God. Seeking an unmediated encounter (apart from Jesus) between us and God, is asking for trouble!! Apart from the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ, and the holiness of sanctification by His Spirit, none of us can see God (Heb. 12:14). And to see God without Jesus’ covering or atonement for our sin would be death for us. So instead we should be infinitely thankful for Jesus’ mediation, His intercession between God and us. Like the defense attorney who stands in our favor, He is for us.
3.      Avoid an easy misunderstanding to land in—that Jesus is the “nice one” and the Father is the “angry one” whom Jesus has to “soften up” or appease. Father, Son, (and Spirit) are not divided in purpose toward us, either in their wrath against sin, or in their mercy and love towards sinners.
4.      What was the purpose of Moses’ ministry, if due to be replaced by the greater ministry of Jesus, the prophet he foretold? “The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Law indeed is given to terrify, awaken sinful consciences, disturb the hypocritical and proud hearts, to throw us entirely and utterly on God’s grace and mercy. Melt away any human pretensions before Him. To think we can build a relationship with God on those is utterly false and deadly. Only on the mediation and the gracious intercession of Jesus Christ are we given a right relationship with God. Moses’ ministry was preparatory for the grace and truth that comes through the greater ministry of Jesus Christ. The heart made humble by God’s law can rightly receive the greater comfort and love of the Gospel of Christ. Can hear unimpeded the words of God from the mouth of Jesus, His prophet, to hear and obey. Find life and courage instead of fear and death. Approach God through the “throne of grace with confidence” through the shed blood of Jesus.
5.      Danger of ignoring the voice of conscience, informed by God’s Word. Resisting the work of the Spirit to convict through the law. Find ourselves without mediation. But the only answer to the voice of an accusing conscience is to turn to the Gospel of Christ, and embrace God’s forgiveness. God kills our sin to make us alive again in Christ. Burdens, guilt, shame, a nagging conscience can only be lifted through the sweet voice of the Gospel of Jesus.
6.      Jesus, the prophet greater than Moses, came with God’s Word of power and authority, with miracles, with the commandments of God, and with “gracious words His lips express” the good message of God’s kingdom. Moses warned to heed (pay close attention to) this prophet, for God Himself would hold them accountable to Him.  Therefore we should listen carefully to Jesus’ Words as the very Word of God Himself.
7.      Final warning against false prophets. For Israel, a theocracy, unique requirement that false prophets deserved death. So seriously did God guard the purity and truth of His word and teaching in His name. The danger of false teaching is so deadly—not simply an earthly matter, but a spiritual matter of our eternity. To go astray after other gods is condemnation. To follow error that is taught in God’s name is not only a grave insult to God’s name, it also can be destructive of faith. For NT, same discernment between true and false expected—test against the Word. But simply correct, rebuke, and avoid such false teaching. Have nothing to do with it. No greater prophet than Jesus will arise—no new or different revelation than what’s given in Him. Thanks be to God that He is our One mediator and we need never fear that His mediation would ever cease or be replaced. His is the assured word of God, testified to by His death and resurrection from the dead, showing Him to be the fulfillment of everything Moses pointed forward to, and the One whom God sent to be our mediator to bring us life and salvation as we encounter God by faith in Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1.      The Israelites had been terrified at their direct encounter with God at Mount Horeb (Sinai), and wanted no more. Read about their experience  and reaction: Exodus 19:1-20:21; Deuteronomy 5. What was their request instead? Ex. 20:19; Deut. 5:24-27; 18:16

2.      Does it surprise you that God commended their request? Why was there a need for a mediator between God and man? John 1:18; Exodus 33:17-23, esp. vs. 20. 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 12:14; 12:18-24. Why would it be dangerous for us to seek an “unmediated encounter” with God? Who is the One and Only Mediator that God has now appointed between Himself and mankind? 1 Timothy 2:4; Heb. 12:24; 8:6; 9:15

3.      What was the purpose of Moses’ ministry as mediator to the Israelites, and what did his prophetic message do/accomplish? How does the work of the Law continue in our lives (and consciences)? Heb. 3:1-6; 2 Cor. 3:7-18; Rom. 7:7-14; Gal. 3:19-29

4.      If Moses’ ministry (of the Law) brought knowledge of sin and death, what was Jesus’ prophetic ministry to bring? John 1:17; Heb. 12:22-24; Gal. 3:25-26; 2 Cor. 3:17-18

5.      How does the Gospel of Jesus Christ give answer to the deepest accusation of the Law against us? Why is the Spirit’s work of breaking our sinfulness (turning us to Him) the necessary precursor to faith in Christ and receiving that blessed forgiveness? What happens when we oppose or resist the power of God’s Word working in us?

6.      What is the OT warning against false prophets? Deut. 18:20-22; 13:1-5; Jer. 23:9-40. What is the NT warning? 1 John 4:1ff; Matt. 24:11, 23-27; 7:15-16; 2 Tim. 3:5-9; 1 Tim. 6; Acts. 17:11.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sermon on Mark 1:14-20, for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, "Fishers of Men"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      Jesus calls the first disciples. Ordinary, fisherman, at their occupation, uses their talents in a new endeavor. Not prominent teachers of the law, Pharisees or priests He encountered. Not powerful politicians, judges, or military commanders (although in time, they would follow the fishermen, tax collectors, and other commoners who came to call Jesus as Lord). He could have come for the rich, the powerful, and the intelligent, and the poor and the common would have remained the “have-nots” in more way than one. But instead He came to proclaim good news to the poor, and to use ordinary men to carry and spread His message. So that the exceeding power of God might be seen, rather than the glory of men. You too are called from whatever station or position in life you may be. Come! Follow Jesus!
2.      Some men may also have the call to leave their profession for full-time service to Christ as a pastor. Have you felt that call? Many others may have the call to teaching, mission work, mercy service, or other ways to be “fishers of men.” All of us can support the work of missionaries. But every time anyone of us tells somebody else the good news about Jesus—how He died for our sins and rose for our life, we too are casting God’s net. “fishers of men.”
3.      Net of God’s grace and love. Spread when the Gospel/good news of God is proclaimed throughout the world. The message that goes out is one of repentance and forgiveness—turn away from your sin, have a change of heart. Receive God’s free gift of forgiveness. Believe what Jesus did.
4.      Full net of fish being hauled out of the water. Flopping, struggling to breathe. Imagine—coming into air, terrified, unable to get oxygen—die out of the water. From natural environment, to leave is death. Our original spiritual environment of sin, however, to stay is death. Unlike a fish remaining in water, if we’re left in our “sinful state” we will die in it. But coming out of it also involves a “death.” When Jesus has us drawn up in His net, carried out of sin by His cross, we die with Him in the cross. That is our old sinful nature, that part of us that clings to sin and flops and struggles against coming up into the air of God’s new life, dies in our baptism into Christ Jesus. We die with Christ in baptism, drawn up in His nets.
5.      “Above the surface” in the air of God’s forgiveness and new life; a struggle, longing for the old familiar environs of sin. Want what’s familiar, comfortable. A conscience that did not know its sin. Israelites—freed from slavery in Egypt, but after a short trip into the desert with Moses, decided that they were better off slaves in Egypt; vegetables and food they craved. But after we’ve coughed, gasped and spluttered, we realize that we can in fact breathe “up here” because God’s Spirit is breath and He is Life. We realize that God has “netted us” for salvation because it is only in Him that we can truly live and breathe, and not die.
6.      A fish, on its own, cannot stay above the surface of the water. Leap; even glide for a short time, but cannot take up residence in the air, soar into the clouds, or transform their “lifestyle” to live “above the surface.” Likewise, we as sinners, who live in our sinful nature, cannot on our own transport ourselves out of our sinful existence and into the new life “above the surface” that God gives. Only in Christ Jesus can we die to our old sinful nature and find our new life that is hidden with Christ in God. Completely by the grace of God > die to old sinful nature and ways, and repent or return to the Lord. New life is out of reach unless first netted by Christ.
7.      The call to faith in Jesus Christ, pulls us “above the surface” and gives us a new perspective on life. Spiritual perspective, enlightened by God’s Word. Present form of this world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31). Temporary nature of our lives, and see through the earthly “props” of this life that will ultimately give way. Only God’s Word is sure, certain, and unchanging, eternal. See sin for what it is. See how great the distance was between God and us, and Christ entering that gap, bringing us back to Him. We begin to see how great His love for us is, and how He has showered blessing upon those who believe. Perspective of faith.
8.      We begin to see His reign, which is hidden from our eyes. Jesus proclaimed the “kingdom of God is at hand!” The reign of earthly kings (rulers) is visible through flags, national borders, ID cards, passports, language and other markings. But God’s kingdom is not visible to the naked eye in this way. No visible borders. No single language. No single custom of dress or clothing worn by Christians. You could not stand on a balcony at a crowded airport or sports stadium and identify who were the Christians and who were not. The reign of Jesus as King in individual lives and hearts is hidden from our eyes. Yet there are “marks of the Church” by which we can identify the visible church of Christ on earth. And those marks, given and established by Christ Himself, are the pure teaching of His gospel (good news) and the correct administering of the Sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Where these are present, there is the visible sign or mark of God’s kingdom present here on earth. It is a mark of God’s reign among us. They are where we find His “embassy.”
9.      As disciples went out casting nets for the Gospel, as you have been hauled up in the nets of God’s grace and love, you have heard that gospel proclamation, that good news message. Jesus said it to you as well! “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The time. Now is the time. Now is your day of salvation. You are in God’s net because God has sought you out and proclaimed His kingdom, His reign to you. His kingdom calls for a response. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Return to the Lord from your sins. Believe in what Jesus has done for you. God has already done everything for you. This net which has captured you is not for your destruction as a fish out of water, but it is for your eternal salvation, caught for life everlasting in Jesus Christ. Believe the good news!

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1.      The word “gospel” means “good news.” What makes God’s gospel message so great for us? Romans 1:1-6; 16

2.      What “time” had arrived when Jesus came? What time is now here for you? Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 6:2. What was happening, and what urgency did it imply for those who heard the message?

3.      When Jesus found His first disciples, what were they doing? What was their status in society? Why do you think Jesus chose them? How did Paul show in his own life (or that of the apostles) that the power of the Gospel had to come from God, and not from men? 2 Cor. 3:4-6; 4:1-7.

4.      What did it mean for the disciples to become “fishers of men?” What is the “net” that is cast? That net gathers people into what? Matthew 13:47-50. How can we be fishers of men? Where do we see the visible signs of God’s kingdom or reign?

5.      Where can you personally cast God’s net? How do we experience a “death” when we are caught in God’s net? How does it prepare us for real life in Him? Colossians 2:12-14; 3:3-4.

6.      Describe what it means for you to be “caught up” in the net of God’s grace. How might you share this with someone else?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, "A Pure Temple"

Sermon Outline
1.      Paul addresses sexual immorality, which couldn’t be of greater significance for us today. Marriage being redefined, living together outside of marriage is all but accepted, teens experimenting, marriages in stormy waters, internet has opened a huge private arena for sin and temptation, removing many obstacles once curbing behavior. Which has been the greater influence on how people think of sexuality? Modern culture and the world influencing the church? Or the other way around—the church influencing the way society thinks?
2.      Like today, the church in Corinth had lost a clear testimony to God’s design for human sexuality. Slogans—traction on the street? In the church? Borrowed from Paul’s teaching on other subjects? “All things are lawful for me” (or “All things are in my power”) (“I do what I like”); but not everything is helpful, and what’s more—sin enslaves. Freedom>slavery
3.      “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” Sexuality not just satisfying our “appetite” as is the case with food, even though culture screams the opposite. Sex-drenched magazines line the checkout aisle of nearly every store, movies and music sing the sweet praises of sexual unfaithfulness and loose inhibitions. Politicians and celebrities count up their affairs as nuisances that we should ignore.
4.      What slogans today? “You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it” (except cars don’t suffer heartbreak and feelings of rejection, and you’re not united with a car). “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (except Jesus and Paul say sin enslaves or masters you). “My faith is a matter of my heart and spirit”—idea that whatever is done in the body has nothing to do with the spirit. Dividing spirit from body. But you are your soul and body. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:17-18).
5.      All cultural tendencies to treat sex anywhere but in marriage as normal and inevitable must be resisted by the church. Higher calling and a higher view of God’s gift. God designed one of the best gifts for humankind, and who knows better than Him how it should be used for the greatest good, love, satisfaction? The Bible and therefore the church is counter-cultural in this way, and has a strong stand to make and an important message to carry. Marriage between a man and a woman is the one God-given place for the healthy expression and satisfaction of sexual desire, and outside of marriage those who are single should practice chastity/celibacay. Wait till marriage. The powerful bonding force of that act that makes the two one flesh, belongs where it can create stability, foster love, and perpetuate union between a man and a woman. There it supports and builds up family. This view is vigorously opposed by the world; but is ignored to our own harm.
6.      But where do we go from here? Is this an issue only for the young and marriageable? Or is it a matter for the whole church?
7.      First to acknowledge the hurt and brokenness that has occurred because of ignoring God’s good design. Admit whatever part we may have played in it. Repent of our own sin, and hear God’s call to higher things. Next, call the church and those outside it to find salvation in Jesus. Jesus came to buy us sinners out of slavery. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
8.      No greater and more amazing truth than this, to shape a positive Christian attitude about sexuality. Bought with a price. What price? The very life of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ! God’s most treasured Son, His most highly beloved. The one with whom He is well pleased. His life, His precious blood of an infinite worth, His purity and innocence before God, His sinless love and self-sacrifice—the greatest model for a husband’s love, and His death to pay the price for all our sins. How much are you worth? What is your value? God has placed this infinite value on you, that He gave His only Son to buy you back from your sins. God saw us, bound and sold in every one of our sins, sexual or otherwise, and He gave His Son as the redemption price to buy us back.
9.      See how precious your freedom and forgiveness is? See how God purifies you, cleansing you of all the guilt and shame of every sin? No accident that when God describes the love of Christ for His church, He uses a picture of marriage—the church is presented to Him as a bride, spotless, clean, without blemish or fault. How did she get that way? It was not by her own goodness, but because He made her holy and cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word. It was not because God’s love was blind. He knew who we were and saw our sins, and stains and blemishes. But He took our shame on Himself and gave all His purity, innocence, and love in return. Everything that is His becomes ours in this marriage.
10.  So what does this mean for us now? By virtue of His cleansing in baptism, your body now is the temple of the Holy Spirit! A doubly great blessing! No longer does God choose the Temple of Jerusalem, with fixed, immovable stones and woodwork and metalwork to dwell in. No matter how glorious and beautiful and stunning that Temple was, God left that building to send His Spirit to dwell in our bodies as His most holy temple. God dwells in you! And just as it would be a sacrilege to vandalize the building of a temple or church, so also it is unholy to disregard the God-given value of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We should take care not to grieve or sadden the divine guest that lives in us—the Holy Spirit. Instead we are called to holiness and honor. And through the forgiving, washing, daily work of the Holy Spirit in us, He keeps our Temple pure, turning away from all sin.
11.  So whether old or young, single or married, divorced or widowed, this is an issue for you. There is no place from which you cannot start anew from God’s forgiveness and seek to live a new life by His grace. God calls us to leave behind “old familiar ways” of sin to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Both elderly and parents have a vital role for the next generation. Lead by example. Teach from your mistakes. Mentor a grandchild or youth. Parents, show yourselves concerned and approachable, so kids can talk openly and honestly with you—even if to admit sins or weaknesses, and seek forgiveness. All of us—Christ was able to love even the worst of sinners, and at the same time call them away from their sin to new life in Him. Tax collectors and prostitutes came to Jesus, not because they expected to find approval for their sin, but rather forgiveness! That their burdens of sin and guilt could be laid down for Him to carry to the cross. Let’s do the same as we lay down our burdens for forgiveness, and seek also to forgive others in the same way. Give witness to the great value God has placed on us. You who are burdened under past sins, confess them to God, or speak to your pastor to find assurance of forgiveness. Speak to your trusted family member or friend to seek out accountability. When sexual temptation comes, follow the example of Joseph in the Old Testament, who fled, or ran from temptation. When he was alone and faced with temptation he said “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Don’t encourage temptation by isolation or exploration.
12.  We can be salt and light, we can give witness to God’s design of sexuality to the world. But it all starts with knowing whose we are—that Christ Jesus made us God’s children by the great price of His life. It continues with the knowledge that His Spirit has made our bodies His holy dwelling place, and living out that identity as forgiven, cleansed, temples of God’s living Spirit. So glorify God in your body, in Jesus’ name and by Jesus’ love. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

1.      In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, Paul seems to be addressing some common “slogans” or sayings that were circulating in the Corinthian church, or perhaps on the streets of Corinth. What are the “slogans” that is responding to, and how does he redirect or reshape them to make his point that sexual immorality is not permissible for the Christian?

2.      How does Paul argue that sins committed in the body are truly significant and spiritually harmful? Instead of sex being a “casual encounter,” what in fact takes place? 1 Cor. 6:16-20. The “one flesh union” that sex creates is actually a good gift of God’s creation when used within the design that He gave for it: marriage between one man and one woman. Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:6-9.

3.      How does the proper use of our bodies then directly impact the holiness and purity of the Holy Spirit’s Temple (our body)? How ought a single Christian to live? A married Christian? (See 1 Cor. 7 for Paul’s further instructions on sexuality). 1 Thess. 4:3-8.

4.      What distinctly high honor and value does the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us grant to our bodies? How has the influence of the world and sexual attitudes of our culture eroded or disregarded that value? How can we rebuild it among ourselves and with the youth of our generation? What have the consequences been of increasing sexual immorality?

5.      For those who have repented of sexual sin, and discovered God’s better plan for themselves and their bodies, what cleansing/purification has Christ accomplished for our bodies as God’s Temple? 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Col. 2:11-14; 3:1-11; John 8:10-11. What new purpose for living does He grant us? 1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 13:4; 1 Thess. 4:3-8

Monday, January 02, 2012

"Stability of your times," a New Year's newsletter

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year! As we begin the new year, I pray that your lives would be renewed in another “year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19). While there’s no need to bemoan or elaborate the fact that the last few years have been tough for many, it remains true that many are out of work or struggling financially because of our bad economy. Nevertheless, we can all count many blessings that we’ve experienced. Even apart from any material blessing, we have the greatest spiritual treasure of all, if we have faith in Christ Jesus. Then we know that God is for us. And if God is for us, who can stand against us?

In several sermons throughout Advent and Christmas, we’ve heard from the ancient prophet Isaiah, who spoke words of comfort to the Jews during trying times. They experienced hardship on a far greater scale than we presently know. They experienced the loss of their harvest (and attendant famine), the threat and attack of their enemies from Assyria and then Babylon, and finally the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the deportation to Babylon. The people waited for the Lord and called for Him to be gracious in their time of trouble (Isaiah 33:2). Likewise we may cry out for God’s grace and help. We may wait for the fulfillment of His promises, not yet seeing them.

While reading through Isaiah 33, one phrase really struck me as we begin this new year. The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure (Isaiah 33:5-6). Isaiah was writing in very unstable times. But he promised that the Lord will be the stability of your times. When uncertainty, when change, upheaval, tragedy, or difficulty strike us, it is the Lord who is our stability. He is unchanging, eternal, our Rock, our fortress and refuge. No other earthly refuge can provide us with that comfort and stability. Nowhere else but the Lord, will we find abundant salvation.

My prayer is that during the next year, whatever good or whatever evil may befall you—whether you enjoy blessing or walk in hardship, that the Lord would be the stability of your times. That day and night, week, month and year, that He would be your constant. That you would look to Him always, and lay all your cares and anxieties on Him for He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Don’t let worries weigh you down, but remember that today has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). Truly for God’s people, to trust in Him is our great treasure and our deliverance. Happy New Year!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

A Christmas Newsletter:

If your radio hasn’t already started picking up Christmas melodies, it still probably won’t be long till you’re humming “It’s the most wonderful time, of the Year!” and other familiar Christmas music—both the commercial variety, and even better, the treasured Christian Christmas carols! Because as Christians we have a far deeper and older reason to celebrate Christmas than all the trappings of holiday decorations and foods and tinsel and music. For us, Christmas is wonderful because of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world as our Savior, in His birth in the little town of Bethlehem. It’s my hope and prayer that you will  celebrate Christmas  in worship, and that you may be renewed in continued worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ throughout the year.
One of the treasured Christmas carols that we sing every year is Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The title recalls when the angels came down from the heavens and visited the unsuspecting shepherds to announce the good news of Jesus the Savior’s birth. “Hark!” is a call to attention. To listen carefully to a message about to be told. “Herald” is a title for royal messengers, who carry important news from a King. So “Hark, the Herald Angel’s Sing” is about God’s royal messengers, the angels, coming to announce the good news: “Glory to the newborn king!” Christmas is a royal holiday—the celebration of the birthday of a king. The first verse goes on to call all the nations to rise in joyful celebration and praise at the miracle that God had achieved in sending His own divine Son into the world to reconcile God and sinners. Christmas is all about God’s movement toward us, so that He might reconcile us to Himself in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).

Verse two calls Him “Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord.” Christ is a title that means “anointed one.” Messiah means the same thing, only in Hebrew. Kings were “anointed” in the Old Testament times as a way to show that they had been placed in a position of high responsibility and authority. Anointing typically was done by a prophet, who poured oil on the head of the anointed, laid hands on him, and placed him into his office. The Christ, or Anointed One, was the Savior whom the Jews looked for from of old. “Late in time, behold Him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel!” Jesus came as the long-awaited Savior, born of a virgin, as promised according to the sign in Isaiah 7:14. “Veiled” or hidden in human flesh, was God Himself. This Divinely born man, Jesus Christ, was God-in-flesh—the meaning of “incarnate.” Incarnate literally means “enfleshed.” Godhead and Deity are both words we use to describe God’s very nature as God. What makes Him God—the eternal, all powerful, all wise Creator. This infinite and eternal God made the most remarkable decision to live and dwell among us as one of us, so that He could meet His people face to face. To teach them His own truth, and show them the path to everlasting life.

The third verse of the carol speaks of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: “Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.” Conquering death was part of the glorious mission to which Jesus, the Christ-child was born to live on earth. Yet His glorious mission was carried out in the humblest of ways, as the hymn sings, “mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory when He came down to be born. He did not parade around in power and majesty, in royal robes, but began His life humbly in a manger, attended by lowly shepherds, and the worshipful gifts of foreigners. He humbly laid His life down in suffering and death on the cross to secure the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection to life again foreshadows the future state when He will fully be revealed in all His heavenly glory. His birth meant the hope that God would overcome death, as God joined Himself to humanity. His birth dignifies and raises our human estate, as God so highly honored His creation by becoming human. He raises us to life, and gives us the new birth, by water and the Spirit. There is great reason to be thankful and to give praise this and every Christmas, and to acknowledge with the song of the angels, “Glory to the newborn King!!” 

Sermon on Numbers 6:22-27 & Luke 2:21, for the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus, "What's in a name?"

Sermon Outline:
1.      What’s in a name? Know the meaning of yours? Significance to your life? Seen as shaping the future of a child in some cultures. Adam = mankind, Eve = living, Abram = father to Abraham = father of many nations, Jacob = grasper, deceiver to Israel = strives with God; Ichabod = “glory has departed”; most important of all names is the name of God Himself. Revealed at Sinai to Moses—YHWH (Yahweh). Most often translated as LORD. Jehovah is a corrupted spelling of Yahweh. Note significance of this Name given in the blessing in Numbers 6—the “Aaronic benediction.” God’s Name would be placed on Israel, and so He would bless them. There is much in a name—especially in God’s Name.
2.      Notice in the benediction—Trinity. God’s movement toward us: “bless you; make His face shine upon you; lift up His countenance upon you” and the result of His activity: “keep you; be gracious to you; give you peace.” God’s Name on His people brings them His blessing.
3.      Carries us to Jesus’ name. Prophecy of Emmanuel = “God with us”; Jesus (Yeshua) = “YHWH is salvation” (He will save His people from their sins).
4.      Nothing accidental or insignificant about the choosing of Jesus’ name. Every name and title given to God in the Bible speaks deeply of His character, His attributes, or His action toward us. Yeshua speaks of the LORD, YHWH, bringing salvation. Just what Jesus would do in saving us from our sins.
5.      What about the timing of Jesus being named? At His circumcision, the 8th day. Old covenant of God with Abraham and descendants. Every male child circumcised on the 8th day; brought into God’s covenant—a people set apart from the Gentiles. Sign of offense—seems shameful, gross, or even just foolish to our human reason. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
6.      This foreshadows the cross. What seems foolish to our human reason, in God’s mysterious way, is powerful to accomplish His purpose. Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God, for our salvation. Reason cannot even comprehend it. Only by faith can we grasp the mystery. “Even if I think that this is foolish and scandalous, nevertheless I will give glory and praise to God that He is wiser than I am and knows what He should do. He does not need my advice or counsel at all about what He does….then you put aside your little opinions and come to another way of thinking and judging so that you say ‘That seems good and right to me because God is pleased with it, even if I may never understand it.’”(Luther)
7.      Jesus’ naming happens at the same time that He sheds His first drops of blood for us, which is fitting, because it was through the shedding of His blood on the cross that He would take our sins away. Obeying the law for us already on the 8th day. Even though Jesus had no sin in Himself, He underwent each requirement of the law for our sakes. Born under the law to redeem those under the law.
8.      What did that ancient law of circumcision mean for the Jews? That they were set apart from the nations. That through their offspring, Jesus, the Savior of the world would be born. Also, the cutting off of the foreskin represented the putting away of sin and evil. See how Scripture gives this spiritual dimension to circumcision: Moses told the Israelites to “circumcise their heart” and be stubborn no longer. To circumcise their hearts was to put away evil and seek to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind. Jeremiah the prophet and later the NT deacon Stephen described the people as having “uncircumcised hearts and ears.” Their ears were uncircumcised because they were unwilling to listen to God’s Word, and scorned it. Circumcision was both an outward reminder of the putting away of sin, and also an inward “cutting away” of sin and stubbornness from hearts and ears.
9.      The physical circumcision “made with hands” on the body is no longer—but the spiritual circumcision of hearts and ears has been incorporated into the NT sacrament of Holy Baptism. Jesus’ circumcision prepares for us the spiritual circumcision of baptism. A “circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2).
10.  This “circumcision” in our baptism, the putting away of our sinful flesh, leads us to live the new life given to us in Christ in baptism—life lead to faith working in love, to keeping God’s commandments.
11.  So Jesus took on circumcision, as the fulfillment of that marker and promise to Abraham. Took it on to fulfill the law for us. Shows His true humanity. Yet at the same time, the giving of His name “Jesus” shows us that He is truly God. That He is the One who saves His people from their sins. Just as He took this on Himself for us, so also He took on death for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. His name means blessing for us, just as in the benediction given to Aaron the high priest, because where God’s name is placed, there is His blessing and gracious activity. Where YHWH blesses, we are kept and preserved as His people. Where YHWH makes His face shine upon us, we are shown His grace and undeserved love. Where YHWH lifts up His face upon us, He gives us His peace. God places His name on His people when He cleanses them from their sin.
12.  So what’s in a Name? For us, Jesus’ name means forgiveness. In OT circumcision a name was given, because the sinful flesh had been put away. In NT baptism Jesus’ name, God’s name is put on you, because your sinful flesh has been put away. And you are also given a new name: “Christian.” With that new name comes your new identity as a follower of Christ. A new creation. Spiritually you have been circumcised, so that your heart may be ready to believe and trust God, and your ears be ready to hear His Word, and that your hands and feet would be ready to obey and do His will by Loving God and your neighbor. Jesus’ name means salvation for us, and may we guard and keep His name honorable in our lives, and spread it’s fame to all nations! Jesus’ name is life for us, and for all these reasons His Name is above all other names to be blessed. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Look up some examples of Biblical names that bore great significance for their bearers. Genesis 2:7, 20; 3:20; 4:1, 25; 5:29; 17:7-8, 15; etc. 1 Samuel 4:21; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23. What do the name and title “Jesus” and “Emmanuel” mean?

  1. Numbers 6 is sometimes called the “Aaronic benediction” because it was the “word of blessing” that God gave Aaron, the (first) High Priest of Israel to speak over the children of Israel. The threefold blessing set the pattern for Jesus’ “baptismal formula” that uses the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In the benediction from Numbers 6 that we use at the conclusion of each service, how does God’s movement toward His people in the first part of each phrase cause the blessings described in the second part of each phrase?

  1. What was the connection between Jesus’ name and when it was given? What was circumcision? Genesis 17:6-14. Why was the shedding of blood particularly significant in connection with the meaning Jesus’ name? cf. Matt. 1:21-23. What spiritual meaning was also given by God to circumcision? Deut. 10:15-16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10; Acts 7:51

  1. What is the new “circumcision made without hands” for Christians? What impact does it have for the way we are to live? Colossians 2:11-15; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; 1 Cor. 7:17-20.

  1. How does circumcision cause a stumbling block to our human reason? Why does God work in such ways—contrary to human reason? 1 Cor. 1:27-29. What does this foreshadow? How was Jesus’ first shedding of blood connected to His final shedding of blood for us?