Monday, March 26, 2018

Meditation on Mark 14:27-31, 37-38, 66-72, for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion (1 Yr lectionary), "Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh"

Out of the flood of images that pour out of the Passion reading, seize on the person of Peter for a moment. At the Last Supper, Jesus says “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus is quoting from the prophet Zechariah, explaining how all His disciples would abandon Him in His hour of greatest need. But also, that Jesus would rise up from death, and rendezvous with them in Galilee (this of course they forgot until after the resurrection). But Peter is eager to proclaim his undying loyalty to Jesus: “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”
Probably many of us at one time or another have imagined ourselves doing something heroic in the midst of danger. Or showing our loyalty to the extreme, or standing up bravely when others failed. But how will we be tested? And would we stand the test? Jesus soberly answered Peter’s boast: “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. They could not imagine their betrayal or denial of Jesus—but when it came down to it, Jesus was right. They all abandoned Him.
The next scene, in Gethsemane, Jesus calls them to fervent prayer. Certainly not the most strenuous test they would face. A simple call to prayer and spiritual discipline, in the face of the coming crisis. Yet even in this modest test, sleep overcame them. Sorrowfully, Jesus says to Peter: “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
These words capture our human condition with the sheer honesty, accuracy, and authority of God living in the flesh. Our spirit is willing. We want to follow, to be loyal, to be brave, to be spiritually self-disciplined and to stand the test. We want to walk faithfully on that path of discipleship, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and restraining our sinful desires and impulses, and we want to choose what is good and pleasing to God. We want to be brave like Peter promised, but to succeed where he failed. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Those words of Jesus are haunting. They tell us that in spite of our best intentions, our sinful flesh is apt to get the better of us. Sometimes we may struggle and win, by God’s grace. Other times the flesh may prevail because our flesh is weak. Our weakness may or may not show up as cowardliness, as it did when Peter denied our Lord three times. It may show itself as a weakness to resist temptation. It may show itself as a stubbornness against the goodness of God’s will and design. A weakness that is blind to the self-injury of sin, and its moral and spiritual cost.
I don’t need to recount to you the vigor and determination of Peter, when he denied ever knowing Jesus. When he turned His back on his beloved Lord, teacher, and friend. But when Peter heard the rooster crow, and remembered Jesus’ words, he wept bitterly. The hymn “Jesus, Refuge of the Weary” has this line: “Do we pass that cross unheeding, breathing no repentant vow, though we see you wounded, bleeding, see your thorn encircled brow?” When we have succumbed to our weak flesh, when our willing spirit has lost the struggle to our weak flesh, do we weep? Do we utter a groan of repentance? Or do we pass the cross of Jesus and His suffering without noticing? Unaffected? For one who has tasted the goodness of the Lord, who has known the depth of God’s mercy, our sins and betrayals, our foolish choices and wrongs are a bitter taste in our mouth. We know the taste of goodness, and long for it. But oh our flesh is weak!
Today we also remember that the scenes we hear and witness, are just two chapters of the relationship between Peter and Jesus. There was much more to be written in the story of Peter’s life of discipleship, as there is for ours. This chapter ended badly for Peter. Jesus went, as He knew He would, alone to the cross. Abandoned, betrayed, denied. The hymn writer finishes the verse: “Yet Your sinless death has brought us life eternal, peace and rest; only what Your grace has taught us calms the sinner’s deep distress.” Thanks be to Jesus, that His Spirit was willing and His flesh was strong—in the end, all that counts is that Jesus was able to do what we were unable. For the bitter weeping of Peter, only the grace of Jesus calms that deep distress. For our wanderings, when we spit out the bitter taste of sin in our mouths, only what God’s grace has taught us can restore and comfort us. The consolation of Jesus on the cross for our sins, is that He has accomplished everything for us—the full disposal of our sin and it’s bitter guilt—and the full declaration of our forgiveness by faith in Him. He left nothing to chance—He did not leave it to our fickle abilities or willpower, nor to our weak and sin-prone flesh. His sinless death brings us life eternal, peace and rest. And He puts the good taste of His mercy back in our mouths with the Covenant of His body and blood, given for you. For this consolation of Jesus—for this hope for every sinner—for our baptism into His death and resurrection to be made new—for this, we ever praise and glorify Jesus—the Name above all names. Amen. Pray: Lord give us a clean and willing spirit, and a strengthened and renewed flesh, to serve you truly. Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sermon on Hebrews 9:11-15, for the 5th Sunday in Lent 2018 (1 Yr Lectionary), "The Blood of Jesus"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Our reading today from Hebrews gives us more than enough to chew on, that could keep us occupied for hours, with the many connecting lines between the Old Covenant and New Covenant in Jesus Christ. The Biblical concept of “covenant” is very important in Hebrews. A “covenant” is like a contract or binding agreement between two parties. So our reading is a contrast between the Old and New Covenants. What are those? The Old Covenant is what God made with Moses and Israel on Mt. Sinai. Including the 10 Commandments, but also the whole system of sacrifices and worship. This involved the blood of goats and calves, the ashes of the heifer, the high priest and the tent, all mentioned in the reading.
These are all elements of the Old Covenant. God ransomed Israel from slavery in Egypt, and was in the process of establishing them as a new, free nation, set apart to serve and obey Him. And this was His binding contract with them—the covenant on Mt. Sinai. It promised great blessings—but it depended on their obedience to Him. You could describe it as a “conditional covenant”. Under these conditions—obedience, repentance, and trust in God, and He would bless and prosper them. But if they broke those conditions (as they surely and quickly did), then God’s blessings would cease—and the more disobedient and unrepentant they became, the more they would face God’s curse and punishments. Those were aimed at turning them back to repentance, like a cold bucket of water to shock someone out of a stupor.
This Old Covenant involved a divinely designed center of worship, called the Tabernacle—which was a richly decorated tent, that was very large, but mobile. It went everywhere the Israelites traveled, through 40 years in the wilderness before they inherited the land of Canaan. At this Tabernacle, or tent of worship, priests made animal sacrifices to the Lord, to make atonement with God for the sins of the people. Priests could only enter the tent by the blood of the sacrifices. It’s a gory picture, and a reminder of the painful lesson that the Israelites observed whenever they sinned—sin is costly, and deserves punishment in death—but it’s also a glory picture, because it reminded them that God provided an innocent substitute on their behalf. Hebrews 8 says that all of these various details—the priests and what they did, the sacrifices, the design of the Tabernacle or tent—these were all copies and shadows of the heavenly things. In other words, they communicated heavenly truths and pointed to something greater than themselves—which is Jesus Christ and the New Covenant. Walking into the tabernacle was like walking into a picture lesson filled with meaningful symbols.
The Old Covenant of Moses and Israel, the 10 Commandments and their worship and sacrifices, points to the New Covenant in Jesus. Who came not as the New Lawgiver, but as the book of John tells us: “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth come through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Jesus brings redemption and forgiveness from the sins committed against the broken first covenant. Jesus is the Grace-giver. “Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come”. Jesus was not only a superior high priest, to those who had come before Him—He is the sinless and eternal Great High Priest, who serves us forever. He brings all good things—forgiveness of sins, life everlasting, the abundant gifts of His Holy Spirit.
It goes on to say that He entered through the “greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places.” The greater and more perfect tent of Jesus is His own body! How do I know this? Because in John 1:14, describing Jesus, it says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father.” But the word “dwelt among us” is actually “tabernacled” or “tented” among us, in Greek! Both Hebrews and John use that “tenting” word to point back to the place of Old Testament worship—but connecting it forward to the incarnation  of Jesus Christ. Why the two are connected is this—the tabernacle or tent, was God’ dwelling place or tangible presence among His people. But now in Christ Jesus, that’s located in a human person, not an impersonal tent. And Jesus’ “greater and more perfect tent” was not made with hands or of this creation, because He is God’s Divine Son!
When it says that Jesus entered once for all into the holy places by means of His own blood, securing an eternal redemption—this tells what the priests under the Old Covenant entering the tabernacle were never able to secure for the people. Their work was repeated over and over. An endless stream of sacrifices and blood of bulls and goats, but never finally removing sin. But it was an important picture of how Jesus would perfect and complete their work—entering once for all, by His own pure, precious, holy and innocent blood, and finally removing all our sin, achieving our eternal redemption. No more repetition, no more sacrifices, but Jesus died for our sins, once and for all. He alone had access to what was inaccessible and unattainable under the old covenant.
Compare the sanctifying blood of Christ to the blood of the animals in the Old Covenant. Their blood was only able to purify the flesh—an outward cleansing from sin—but Jesus’ blood cleanses much deeper. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Jesus’ blood cleanses our conscience—the inner guilt and shame that clings to our heart when we have done wrong, and have been defiled or made unclean through our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. This, Jesus’ blood cleanses away. A deep, spiritual, internal cleaning, that leaves us washed and whiter than snow. A clean and renewed conscience. Our conscience is an inner courtroom that judges our actions right or wrong, or an alarm that sounds to keep us from doing wrong. But when our conscience has been violated—when we have violated God’s law—the cries and distresses of the conscience can only properly be addressed and washed with the blood of Jesus. The conscience that is not at peace can throw us into an inner torment or despair; or even be warped into self-justification and hypocrisy. Jesus’ shed blood is the only cure for the troubled conscience.
My kids, just like me when I was young; and maybe just like you, are always puzzled by the statement that Jesus’ blood purifies us and washes us clean. They say things like, “but blood is messy and makes you more dirty or yucky!” Better than any detergent or cleanser, Jesus’ blood purifies and washes out the stubborn stains of sin. Only Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, can get that sin out of your life—to wash and drain out all the filthy grime of sin, and leave you better than new. From our earthly vantage point, that seems impossible, as we continue to struggle with sin, but from Jesus’ vantage point, “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 5:11). This is Jesus’ work in you. He purifies deep down to your very conscience, and makes you alive to God in Him. No better washing we could ask for! And at the price of His blood!
And this cleansing by Jesus’ blood is for God’s purpose—that our conscience would be purified from dead works to serve the living God. The difference between dead works and living works is whether we have faith in God. God is not pleased or served by works that are not done in faith. Going through the motions of obeying God, or walking through rituals and commands without faith, is not pleasing to God. But purified from dead works, with our sin washed away and a conscience freed in Jesus, then we are called to serve the living God. Our lives are made instruments of His service, and we bear living fruit as our lively faith drinks in the nourishing Life of Jesus, the Living Vine. Living faith in a Living Lord bears living fruit in service to others. Your lives become a beautiful service as you find creative, compassionate, and courageous ways to serve those around you, and to bring Christ’s love and light into their world.
The last verse of the reading is this: “Therefore He is the mediator of the new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Jesus calls us to an eternal inheritance, just as it earlier said that Jesus secured for us an eternal redemption. Lasting, unfading, never spoiled or destroyed—eternal. All by Jesus’ death.
We began today by talking about how important the word “covenant” is to the author of Hebrews. A contract or binding agreement. Jesus’ death sealed this new covenant in His blood, for the forgiveness of sins. A very particular kind of covenant—Jesus’ last will and testament. An unconditional covenant—not like the old covenant that was broken, and that depended on our obedience—but a new covenant based on His obedience and His promises. Jesus celebrated the establishment of that covenant in His blood when He ate His last Supper with the disciples, saying, “Drink of it all of you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” And it was ratified and sealed when He died on the cross, so that we now share in His eternal inheritance. Such a love our Father has for us, that Jesus, His Son freely made such a covenant of blessing and good things for us. A new covenant of forgiveness that is shared with us and brought forward each week in the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This is God’s covenant of forgiveness with us. God’s plan, stretching from Old Testament to New, all folds together perfectly centering in Jesus Christ. Give thanks for such a great High Priest! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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Listen: search your podcast app for “The Joshua Victor Theory” or
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  1. Read Hebrews 9:11-15. What is the “old covenant” (implied in the reading) and the “new covenant” referring to?  What place of worship did the old covenant direct Moses to build? Exodus chapter 25ff.
  2. How was the old covenant “conditional?” Under what conditions would they receive blessings? Curses? Deuteronomy 28. What eventually happened with Israel, concerning this covenant? Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 9:15.
  3. What lesson did the old covenant believers learn about sin, when they witnessed and participated in the sacrifices? What lesson about substitution?
  4. Jesus is not the new lawgiver, but the bringer of what? John 1:17. What are the “good things” (Heb. 9:11) that He brings?
  5. How is Jesus the “greater and more perfect tent?” John 1:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4. Why does it say it was “not made with hands” or “of this creation”?
  6. How deep a cleansing does Jesus’ blood give us? Hebrews 9:14; 10:22; Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:7.
  7. How permanent is Jesus’ role as mediator and high priest? How permanent is the redemption that He has secured for us? Hebrews 9:12, 15, 25-26.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Sermon on John 6:1-15, for the 4th Sunday in Lent 2018 (1 YR), "God can work with that"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. It’s worth noting that the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded by all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—outside of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which are the main focus of all four. In all four retellings of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus turns to His disciples to provide for the food, and they are in disbelief. How can we possibly feed this multitude? Only John’s Gospel records Jesus’ specific question to Philip: “Where are we to buy bread that these people may eat?” and explains that Jesus was testing him, because He already knew what He was going to do.
We don’t often appreciate being tested—especially if we’re caught by surprise. Pop quizzes are sure to make any student groan and panic. In work and personal relationships, if we find someone is testing us, we’re often suspicious of their hidden motives. In our faith life, we often question why God is testing us. But God sure seems to do it a lot. In the Old Testament reading, also about a miraculous feeding with bread from heaven, God was testing the Israelites to see whether they would obey Him or not. Well, like it or not, at least we know in general God’s motives when He tests our faith—it is to deepen our trust and dependence on Him.
So when Jesus tests Philip and the disciples to feed a multitude of people (5,000 men, plus women and children), it’s obvious to human wisdom that He’s asking far too much of them. But by God’s own wisdom, and by His knowledge and calculation, He’s not asking too much of them at all—because He knows what He’s going to do. Philip is quick to do the math and reply that 200 denarii, more than half a year’s wages, wouldn’t buy enough bread for everyone in the crowd to have a bite. Isn’t this just like us, to face a test or challenge that God has placed before us in life, do a self-inventory, and think that we come up short? We might even protest, like Philip—“God, you really haven’t given me much to work with—how do expect me to get the job done? Honestly, do the math and you’ll see it can’t work.”
Next comes Andrew, and you can sense his embarrassment to offer up for the service of Christ—these humble gifts of a small child. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” What a tiny inventory to feed a crowd totaling probably 15-20 thousand! But in Jesus’ hands and by His wisdom, this was just the thing! Why did Jesus want these small gifts—this small offering of food that was already on hand? To show that it is not in our might or resources, but in God’s power and generosity to give. Perhaps Pastor Fricke’s best known quote is: “You can’t out give God”. And Pastor Roschke loves to point out from this text that “what’s on hand is enough.” Jesus takes a look at what God in His goodness has already provided us, and says, “I can work with that!”
What service is God now calling us to do? What hungry multitudes to feed, or what restless and needy people, does Jesus lift up His eyes upon, and have compassion on? What is testing or challenging your faith right now, that demands your resources—but you inventory them to be too small? God is reminding you to trust in Him, not in your own wisdom or resources. We don’t have to look far to find places where Christ’s compassion calls us to serve—as near as our neighbors, our families, our schools and communities, there are needs to be filled, and people in need of God’s love. And beyond these, there are limitless opportunities to serve the poor, the suffering, and defenseless.
What are the gifts of our children meant to be offered for? Among these children, students here at Emmanuel, among your children, or those of your friends and neighbors, those whom you mentor, or grandparent, or encourage—what are their talents, gifts and abilities that Christ is calling forward to be offered, to be multiplied and blessed in the service of others? Jesus does not think little of these gifts that He has already given, and He knows His intent and purpose to multiply, bless, and use them for His service. Our test is to lean into Him, and trust and follow His lead.
Let us not, like Andrew, be embarrassed to imagine the possibilities of those humble gifts, or like Philip to doubt what could be done with so little—but like Jesus, be delighted to work with, multiply and increase those gifts to the glory of God! Let us each bring our gifts, however lowly and humble they may seem, and place them into Jesus’ hands to bless and multiply, and be given to serve others. Life is infinitely better (even with all challenges it brings) when lived according to God’s wisdom, instead of our human wisdom. Human wisdom is small and short-sighted, while God’s wisdom is infinite and sees beyond all horizons. Human wisdom picks up on obvious details—mostly the problems and our scanty resources. But God’s wisdom perceives the solutions, even if He doesn’t clue us in on them, we can trust that He knows all that He is ready to give and to do when we work for His purposes.
Jesus performed a miracle—multiplying and increasing the food so greatly that 12 baskets were filled with the leftover pieces. There was more leftover than there was to begin with, and everyone was filled and satisfied, and nothing went to waste. Also unique to John’s telling of the story, is this detail: that Jesus’ miracle made them realize that Jesus was the great Prophet that Moses had foretold. They saw themselves standing at the brink of history being made—and they were right about that—but they misunderstood what would happen. They tried to take Jesus by force, and make Him king. What’s that all about?
For centuries Israel was in turmoil as a nation—currently ruled by the powerful Roman empire, which they hated, and many other empires before that. Revolutionaries came and went, always promising to restore the kingdom to Israel, but all of them failing. So here they thought they had their man. With His bread-making miracles, and other great signs and wonders He had done, they figured their problems were solved! Make Jesus their king, and they’d be unstoppable, and could return to the peace and prosperity of the good old days.
And unlike almost any other person offered such power, Jesus turned it down and went away into the wilderness by Himself. To understand why, we need to relate this miracle to Jesus’ cross. The rest of John chapter 6 is a lengthy sermon that follows the miracle, after the crowd tracks Him down and finds Him somewhere else Jesus tells them “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” Jesus tells them to stop thinking only about their stomach cravings—but to hunger instead for spiritual food that leads to eternal life. The lengthy sermon that follows is about how He is the Bread of Life, and who will give up His life for the life of the world.
So Jesus rejects being made king by the popularity of the masses, but instead offers Himself up to eventual mistreatment, betrayal, abuse, and death on the cross. There, at the cross, He would bear the title of king—though He said His kingdom was not of this world. He came to rule a greater kingdom. While they wanted their stomachs filled and their nation freed, what Jesus was really ready to do for them, and saw that they truly needed was for Him to suffer and die for their sins. That’s what He was sent to do. That’s what He was going to do, so that we might have life. But they still couldn’t wrap their heads around it. Of course it’s easier to recognize the hunger of our belly than the emptiness of our soul without God. It takes some introspection to see and recognize our spiritual hunger, sin, and need.
Jesus turns away from human wisdom, with its limited perception, and invites them into His heavenly wisdom. He calls with words like these: John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” When Jesus left them that day, without the bread-king that they wanted—He left to serve them in a far more significant way, as His steps traced the path to His cross. That was His destination and the throne of His coronation, not with gold and jewels, but with thorns. He went there because humanity needs so much more in life than food to fill our stomachs for a day, or a better leader to rule our nation. Like that crowd, our attention might be drawn to those things. And the Lord knows that we need them, and generously provides us our daily bread.  But Jesus knows that we have an even deeper need for total rescue from our sinful condition. We need spiritual food to satisfy the deepest hunger of our soul. And only Jesus—no other king or leader—can provide both. Only Jesus offers up His perfect, costly life as the Son of God as the sacrifice for our sins. Only Jesus is the Bread of Life that gives us eternal life, when we believe in Him.
The crowds weren’t going to just stumble upon this truth and figure out for themselves—it wasn’t a point that they could grasp without guidance—but everything in the Gospels pointed this direction, to the cross. Only after He gave Himself up on the cross, and physically rose up, alive again, after three days dead in the grave, did it become clear what Jesus’ Kingship was. This is what I mean that the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 “sets the table” for greater things. Jesus came as the Bread of Life, to feed much more than a multitude on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, 2,000 years ago. Jesus offers Himself as Bread of Life to all mankind, a multitude that stretches far beyond the shores of that remote lake in Israel. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (6:33). Still today, Jesus’ followers—you and I, are distributing His life to the world. Whenever we carry the Good News that Jesus died for our sins, and rose to defeat death, we carry it out to a world of hungry souls. Jesus tests us, “Where will you get bread so these people may eat?” And we learn by faith to answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (6:68). He is the Bread of Life, and He is more than enough to feed a world that is hungry for eternal life with God. Jesus looks around at each of us, and all the gifts He has blessed us with, and sees that it is enough, because He has already planned in His heart what He will do. Go out in joy, knowing that God will bless and multiply all the work that is done for Him, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:
Listen: search your podcast app for “The Joshua Victor Theory” or
listen online at

  1. The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle (outside of the cross and resurrection) found in all four Gospels. John records some unique details. What does John 6:5-6 tell us about what Jesus was doing?
  2. How did Philip and Andrew respond? What do their answers show?
  3. How do we often respond when we are tested, or meet a challenge that seems too big for us?
  4. What opportunities and needs are in front of us, in our families, schools, and communities, where God is calling us to have compassion and help?
  5. What are the gifts, talents, and abilities God has already given you? How can Jesus tell us that this is enough, or that He can work with what we have available? John 6:6. How much was left over after the miracle?
  6. What idea did the crowd suddenly have, about what to do with Jesus? John 6:14-15. Why is it unusual that Jesus resisted this (compared to other leaders, and people offered power)? What did Jesus want or plan to do instead?
  7. Keep reading the rest of John 6. What problem did Jesus say the people had, with what they were seeking? John 6:26-27.
  8. How was Jesus planning on doing a much greater “feeding” than the miracle they just witnessed? John 6:51. How many are fed by Jesus’ death on the cross? John 6:33; 68.
  9. How do we continue to feed the world? Where do we get this ‘bread’ to feed them?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sermon on Ephesians 5:1-9, for the 3rd Sunday in Lent (1 Yr Lectionary), "Imitators of God"

Sermon Note Outline:
·         Imitation—natural to those we admire; but also even unwittingly copy bad examples. Copy what we see and experience—not what we don’t know. (Good case for not knowing evil! And keeping the example of Christ ever before us!)
·         Imitate? What is God like? Known in Christ. 1:3—every spiritual blessing, 1:5—adoption as sons through Christ, 1:7—redemption, forgiveness; 1:18—glorious inheritance. God is lavish in blessing us, profound in generosity and mercy. Can’t imitate what is uniquely God’s—salvation, source of every blessing, giver of eternal life. Never “match” His goodness, yet Jesus calls us “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Will never exceed His example, but His grace, His love and Spirit poured into us is the resource to imitate—to begin to act like Him. Can forgive, walk in love, reflect God’s generosity, live out His compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, etc.
·         And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Steps guided and directed by Christ’s love. Not side paths, diversions, and dead ends of the world.
·         Explains new identity with several representative sins of body, heart, and mouth. Not of God’s love: don’t flow from His laws & commands.  Sexual immorality and all impurity—glamourized and normalized as “love” by the world, but not from God’s love. It takes what is not promised and committed to us, regardless of God’s command. But love by God’s design is committed and faithful, between a man and a woman in marriage. God gives the place for love to flourish. God’s love calls us to purity—to chastity outside marriage, and faithful monogamy inside it. Sexual temptation is everywhere, internet and permissiveness of our culture increases the temptation, books, movies. Keep watch on yourselves, guard your eyes, heart, body
·         Covetousness—greed, hunger for more. That is idolatry. Greed= poisonous vice. consuming more and more—never satisfied, like fire. It burns in power structures, economies, and yes, even in churches. Not some external stain on impersonal institutions or corporations or something—an internal stain on hearts and motives. all-consuming, never satisfied hunger. What about basic needs, dreams and desires? not inherently wrong to pursue excellence, to want to earn a living, or to gain something you are working for. God knows our needs and provides them. But greed casts a different shade on things, from contentment to dissatisfaction. From earning to cheating or bitter rivalry. From thankfulness to ingratitude and complaining. Greed is a difficult thing to dislodge from our hearts, but it begins with the call and the forgiveness of Christ. His love renews our hearts. Contentment, work, effort, generosity.
·         Must not even be named among you—guard reputation, practice purity, separate from sons of disobedience/evildoers. Self-control and purity to guard against evil talk and rumors—above suspicion.
·         Filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking—way we use our mouths. Dirty language, lewd jokes, foolish words. Sinking level of humor and entertainment—again, easy to place blame outside of us, but how do we use our mouths? Thanksgiving? Or dirty talk? What do we find entertaining? Are we feeding the market for trash talk, or do we expect better?
·         No inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Wake up call—forceful warning against our sinful flesh and blood that so easily sink down to these things. These things do not belong to the kingdom of God or the love of Christ, we must separate from them. Eternal life or eternal judgment is at stake. Don’t be deceived by those who would talk down the danger of these sins.
·         At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light. Description of identity, not circumstances. Not “in” darkness, and “in” light. Rescued away from the darkness of our identity in sin. Darkness swirls with self-deception, greed, lust, impurity. Daily put to death in repentance and baptism the old sinful nature. Walk forward as children of light. New person emerges from baptism—daily renewal by the Holy Spirit. Shed the garments of sin, clothed in light.
·         Powerful identity transformation—not our power, but God’s. Be imitators of God, as beloved children. Beloved, lovely. Baptismal sermon—dear and precious to God, as Christ is beloved. The affection of God’s heart is on us. As beloved, adopted children, God’s love is at work in us. Making new, recreating, turning our feet into the path of His love. To inherit the kingdom of Christ and God, our identity is first and last in Him. Bodies given in faithful love and service to Him and our neighbor—not used for impurity. Mouths to praise, to sing, to give thanks to God, encourage, build up, spread the truth in love. Beautiful words on our lips. Hearts filled with love—are content, are generous, worship God alone—no worthless idols or money. Image of high priest Joshua in prophet Zechariah—clothed in filthy rags, stood accused by Satan, but is re-clothed in fine priestly garments and his guilt is taken away. We also stand before Jesus, helpless on our own to be free of the darkness, but ready to have Him strip our sins and guilt away, free us from the devil’s accusations, and the stain of our sin. Beloved by God—He does this all for us in Christ. We are dear and precious to His heart. Keep His example always before you, and follow it with delight, as children love to mimic their parents!  Pray: Lord Jesus, may your love have its way in me, transforming me to reflect your glory, and that I may always imitate God, as your dearly beloved child. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. In order to imitate someone, you first need to know what they are like? How do we know what God is like? Who shows us? What are some of the things that God does, and that describe who He is?
  2. Give a biblical definition of “love”. How does God’s love differ from the love we usually think of in the world? Why is His love both more difficult to imitate, and also more worthy of our imitation? How does God supply His love to us, so we can do this? Romans 5:5
  3. What are some behaviors that the world embraces, and that deceptive talk excuses, but are not acceptable for the saints or children of God to be involved with? Ephesians 5:3-8.
  4. Sexual immorality, lewd language, and greed are all manifestations of sin in our body, mouth, and heart. When these three are governed by Christ’s love instead, how do we use our members to please God?
  5. Covetousness, or greed—describe what this is. Why does vs. 5 call this idolatry? What idol(s) does it involve? If we are engaged in these sins, and do not repent, what do we forsake? Ephesians 5:5-6; 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
  6. Vs. 7 says “do not become partners with them.” Why is it essential that we don’t participate or share in the sins of the “sons of disobedience”? Galatians 6:1. How did Jesus maintain the balance of ministering to the sinners and the lost, while not joining in their sins? Luke 5:30; 15:1-2; Hebrews 4:15; John 8:11.
  7. Ephesians 5:8-9 says that at one time we were darkness. This speaks to our sinful nature. Now we are light. Both of these speak of identity, not just circumstances. How has our identity been transformed in Christ? Who gets all the glory for this?