Sermon Notes – 28 May 2017

This Is Eternal Life – John 17:3

   My first congregation was Bethany Lutheran Church in St. Louis.  The staff included me and a part time janitor.  I was responsible for preparing, proofreading and printing the weekly bulletin.  Believe it or not, I could have filled volumes of church bulletin blooper books.  One that I particularly regret was an announcement inviting everyone to a major event at Concordia Seminary.  I got all of the information (date, time, location) correct.  All of the words were spelled correctly.  At the end I added: “There will be no admission.”  I intended to say, “There will be no admission charge.”  Big difference between being free and open to everyone (“no admission charge”) or closed and open to no one (“no admission”).

   The Law’s announcement that sin has separated us from God isn’t a typo.  There isn’t a word that has been inadvertently omitted.  It shouldn’t read, “The wages of sin are NOT death;” it is perfectly correct as it is, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)   There literally was no admission to heaven for any sinner.  As Adam and Eve were barred from returning to paradise after the fall into sin so all sinners would be barred from paradise.  (Genesis 3:24)  As the cherubim with a flaming sword turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life in Eden, so eternal life would be forbidden to all of fallen humanity—until Jesus Christ came. 

   Jesus didn’t come to correct a blooper.  He came to change the situation of sin separating us from God.  He came to lead us back to the Father, to be the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10-11)  In his Gospel, John wants everyone to understand the unique connection between Jesus Christ and the gift of eternal life.  [John 3:16; 5:24; 6:40; 6:68; 11:25-26; 14:6; 20:30-31]  “Life,” “Abundant Life,” “Eternal Life” are the theme of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are the goal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are the result of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

   Even as we were in a predicament of complete helplessness because of sin, Christ changes the scenario completely.  Whereas there had been no admission to paradise, now the admission has been paid on our behalf by Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins.  Now we may eat of the tree of life.  As John saw among the closing visions of Revelation: “Blessed are those who wash their robes [in the blood of the Lamb], so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city [the heavenly Jerusalem] by the gates.” (Revelation 22:14)

   We have brought to a close the 150th academic year of St. John’s Lutheran School, but we do not bring to a close our emphasis of “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  We live in that glorious truth always.  When Concordia Seminary in St. Louis celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1990 there was a special concert by the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus.  Among the music of Bach and Mendelssohn the symphony and chorus presented a Mass composed by Seminary professor Alfred Fremder.  Part of the Mass was the Creed.  Every portion of the Creed concluded with the declaration, “My God has done everything for me, EVERYTHING!” 

   Yes, He has!  God has done everything so that we might be reconciled to Him and have eternal life in His presence.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)  To know that is to know that God has done everything for us in Christ, EVERYTHING!  And to know that is eternal life.




February 28, 2016 - Sermon Notes


1 Corinthians 10:13


   Our text is frequently misused to tell us that God will never give us more burdens than we can handle.  With God’s help it is certainly amazing what we are sometimes able to handle, given all of the difficulties life in a fallen world throws our ways.  If we are talking sheer physical endurance, however, there will be that one final burden, that one final assault, that one final breath signaling our mortality. 

   I don’t want to spend too much time on what this text is not about, but you remember in last month’s news the story of Anne Swaney, a local ABC news executive producer who was found murdered in Belize?  When ABC7 asked her father about his strength through this most recent family tragedy (Anne’s older brother died of a heart attack at age 39 two years ago) he answered honestly, “I don’t have it.  I’m not strong.  I’m a mess.”  The poor man died of a broken heart last Tuesday.  He had met his final burden in extraordinarily tragic circumstances.

   What Paul is talking about in our text, however, is something that is “common to man.”  Paul is talking about temptation to sin, and, as one commentator puts it, “It is the kind of temptation that humanity is commonly called on to endure.” (Gregory Lockwood, Concordia Commentary – First Corinthians, ©2000, page 331)  Paul provides examples from Old Testament events, letting us know the Israelites had received the same grace from God that we have received, “but if [we] succumb to the same sins, [we] will be punished just as Israel was punished.” (Ibid)

   Example # 1 – Simple idolatry (“desire evil”) when some people spurned the manna God had miraculously provided and coveted the meat and vegetables of Egypt (leading to the “Graves of Craving” in Numbers 11); and gross idolatry with the golden calf before which “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32)

   Example # 2 – Sexual immorality as Moabite women invited Israelite men to participate in their fertility rites in honor of the false god Baal of Peor.  God struck more than 23,000 of those sinners down in a single day (Numbers 25). 

   Example # 3 – Some of the people put God to the test with their unceasing complaining and grumbling, occasionally leading to acts of divine judgment: the poisonous serpents (Numbers 21), the faithlessness of the ten spies (Numbers 14), and the rebellion of Korah and company (Number 16)

   God was always faithful (as Paul announces to us in our text), but some of the people were unfaithful.  They probably said, as people say today, “I couldn’t help myself;” “the devil made me do it;” “if God wanted me to resist the temptations He should have made me stronger.” The temptations then and the temptations now are not irresistible as the Apostle testifies that God “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 

   Sally Hogshead is a brand consultant who helps companies increase appeal for their products or services.  In 2010 she wrote a book called Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation.  In the book she asserts there are seven universal triggers, the first of which is “lust.”  She writes, “Lust conquers the rational evaluation process, freeing us to stop thinking, and start feeling.” (page 73)  This is, in my opinion, a very true statement.  It is also among the top reasons this world of ours is sinking deeper and deeper into the cesspool of selfish sinfulness.  [NID mission director] 

   The original fascinating triggers are the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth).  Today, far from trying to escape the temptations they bring, we just use more and more tools to enhance their availability and their acceptance.  We had better start looking for the way of escape before we end up “overthrown in the wilderness.” (1 Cor 10:5)  Paul wrote in our Epistle, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (v. 12)  Jesus warned in our Gospel (Luke 13:1-9), “Do you think [those who died tragically] were worse offenders than all others…?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  God taught through the prophet Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading (33:7-20), “Your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just.’”  The way of the Lord is the way of escape! 

   The way of escape is to stand firm on the overwhelming faithfulness of God, to stand firm on the redeeming power of Christ’s death and resurrection, to stand firm on the endless work of the Holy Spirit who empowers us through the Gospel.  God does not lead us into temptation; He is in the delivering from evil business.  Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are led to the way of escape.  That way may not be sexy but it is quite effective. 

   What, however, about the times that we fail and the fascinating seven deadly sins take momentary control of our lives?  There is still the way of escape.  As John wrote in his First Epistle, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (2:1)  “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)  With that sinless life He rescues us—He is the way of escape.

© 2017 St Johns Evangelical Elgin
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