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
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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
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  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
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  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
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  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.