GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

 

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1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

 

Love makes you do some undesirable things.  I thought of an example that fits for parents: change diapers.  You love your baby. You know they need to be clean.  And even though it’s stinky and sometimes you get hit by some not-so-friendly fire, you do it.  But every parent will admit that it gets old.  Sometimes you and your spouse do a rock-paper-scissors best of three to see who has to do the change.  Sometimes you wish the oldest was old enough to do it.  The great thing about changing diapers is that eventually you don’t have to do it anymore; the baby grows up.  Love makes you do some undesirable or uncomfortable things for a while.

But all things, does love make you do all things?  Is that really possible?  I mean, last week we began this evangelism training series by taking a good look at the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan.  Remember that when the love of Christ is in your heart you are built to show love to people just as Christ has shown love to you.  You will help someone when they are in need.  You will give money to those who have been affected by a disaster of some kind.  You will put yourself in a position where you have to sacrifice something for someone else’s benefit.  You will change diapers.  You will.  There’s no question about that.

When the topic is evangelism there is a similar attitude.  Christ has given you his good news.  It’s not just a little piece of your life along with all these other details and descriptions that are more important.  The gospel is the number one biggest and best thing that you have, because in the gospel you have the good news that you are saved by Jesus free and full.  God loves you so much that he decided to make heaven your eternal home because of what Jesus has done for you.  God has made this your good news.

But he has also made this universally good for everyone and God wants all people to be saved, so God wants your good news to be their good news.  You do have people in your family, your group of friends, your neighborhood, your work – there are people who you know who don’t have or don’t care much about this good news.  You can talk about Jesus, religion, faith, church with them.  You can work up the courage to bring it up with a spouse, relative, friend or neighbor.  You can invite them to worship, to take a Bible Basics course together, to meet up with me for a chat sometime.  You can.  And since this good news of the gospel is so good, you have probably tried doing this before.

But the Good Samaritan story is one that Jesus makes up to teach us who we should love and what love does.  From that story we learn that every single person who is not me is my neighbor.  With Christ’s love in my heart, I will be willing to help them.  And with Christ’s love in my heart I will be willing to help them quite a bit.  But the story is only about one specific occasion.  You and I could probably do that kind of Good Samaritan thing one time.  You and I can go out of our way to help someone who needs it once.  We could pay for someone’s meal or groceries once.  We could spring into action if a neighbor kid gets hurt and no one else is around.  We could do a fundraiser for someone in need.  We could give some confused person directions.  We could put some gas in someone’s car.  All sorts of stuff that we could do because we are loved by Jesus and his love is now present in our hearts.

But what if it’s more than once?  What if it becomes a pattern?  When it comes to loving others, what if we have to do it a lot?  When it comes to evangelism, speaking the good news of Jesus, what if we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable?  This section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians helps us with that.

The Apostle Paul had worked hard among the people of Corinth.  He wanted them to have what he had.  So much, in fact, that he did not even take any kind of payment from them when he first stopped in Corinth on his second missionary trip.  He put himself in that position because serving people was his main goal.  He was also willing to mingle with both Jews and Gentiles because the gospel is for all every single person was worth it.  That wasn’t the normal way to do things back then.

Now, we might look at that and think Paul’s nuts.  Actually, there were plenty of people in Corinth who were trying to convince the members of the congregation that Paul was not only nuts for doing that but also not a true apostle. They were saying something like this: “Paul must not be a real preacher called by God because every preacher should get some kind of payment for his work.  And a real preacher would certainly not be seen with the kind of people we saw Paul with when he was here the last time.”

But Paul answers that by saying, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone…”  Paul says it doesn’t matter who it is, if there are people who could be served in his ministry, then he would do it.  He willingly put himself on the line for their sake.  Paul wanted, in so many various ways, to find common ground with everyone so that he could serve them with what was most important   .

It’s not just a one-time thing like the story of the Good Samaritan.  Paul made it his practice to be in situations that other people might not be comfortable in.  “To the Jews I became like a Jew… to those under the law I became like one under the law…to those not having the law I became like one not having the law…to the weak I became weak…”  Paul was willing to make real changes in how he approached different people, but he never changed who he was.  Paul was a Christian.  That was first and foremost no matter who he met or who he was serving.  He was bought with the blood of Christ and had this same gospel message for others.

So that meant he could be like a Jew for those who were from the Jewish heritage.  Paul was also from that heritage, from the tribe of Benjamin.  He could be like those who still followed all the Old Testament ceremonial laws about eating only kosher food, wearing certain kinds of clothes, observing special festivals.  Even though Christ set us free from all those ceremonials laws by fulfilling them for us perfectly, Paul could set aside that kind of freedom for the Jews and for those who like following those ceremonials laws.  He didn’t do it one time, but he was willing to get comfortable, doing it a lot.

He could also be like Gentiles who didn’t know or care about any of those Old Testament ceremonial laws that were meant for the Jews.  Christ sets us free from those laws that God commanded for Israel in the Old Testament.  Paul knew that he could serve those Gentiles just as well as long as it did not violate God’s moral law, the Ten Commandments.  Paul does make that concession, that we are in the law of Chris to love God with every fiber of our being and love our neighbor as ourselves.  But if there was no sin involved in reaching out to Gentiles Paul was willing to do anything for them.

He could even be seen serving those who were “weak,” They had a weak conscience. They were easily offended by anyone who would dare do something they would not do.  Paul was willing to give up so much of what was perfectly fine for him to do, so that he could find common ground with those who are touchy about everything.

Now, what would make Paul willing to be so uncomfortable, like he always had to change his outlook and his preferences for others, like he was every person’s slave, even though Christ had set him free?  Maybe before we answer that I should ask you the same question.

What would make you willing to get uncomfortable not just once, but to get comfortable with being uncomfortable?  Maybe if someone paid you enough?  Like an actor, they have to play some parts that are undesirable, but the payoff makes it all worth it.  Is that what it would be for you?  Or maybe someone really close and special to you?  You could perhaps change some of your preferences and then flip-flop back whenever it was for their benefit, as long as it was not sin, of course.

But Paul says he didn’t accept payment in Corinth.  And when he arrived there he didn’t know any of the people.  So what made him “become all thing to all people”?  That answer is simple for him and just as simple for us.  “so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Paul’s not interested in his own comfort level.  Paul’s not interested in the finances.  Paul’s not interested in his own popularity.  Paul’s not interested in any of that.  What he is interested in is saving people from hell.  But Paul isn’t the one who could do that.  So Paul had to talk about the one who did.  That’s giving the good news of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Think about what Jesus did.  He was not a Jew or Gentile. Jesus is the eternal God; there is no nationality for God.  He was not someone under the law or someone not having the law.  Jesus is the one who invented the law.  He was not weak or strong.  Jesus is omnipotent, that means all-powerful.  And yet Jesus decided to get comfortable in what many would say is uncomfortable.  He came down from heaven to do it all.  He became the servant of all.  He was humble and selfless.  And then he was beaten and killed.  He came to be the good news that sinners don’t have to die and go to hell.  Jesus came to wash sins away and give a new life, free from law, free from guilt, free from the traps of the devil.  He came to be the good news that heaven awaits all who believe in Jesus.

That’s why Paul did what he did.  He was willing to get uncomfortable because the gospel is just that good of news.  Don’t you think that it might happen that there are people who need this good news and they don’t have your lifestyle?  Don’t you think there might happen to be some who have a different nationality than you? Don’t you think it might happen that some look at Jesus in a different way than you?  Don’t you think there might be some who are under the load of the law and some who aren’t?  Don’t you think there might be some who are weak?   Of course!  Do you know what they need?  The Gospel of Jesus.

It just so happens that Jesus has made this good news your very own.  And so he makes it easy for you to see the situation how it really is.  It’s not about how desirable or comfortable a situation is.  It’s not about your feelings or thoughts.  It’s not about you at all.  It’s about him.  Jesus has made you to be the kind of person that wants to serve him by serving others.  Jesus has given you his gospel.  You have a God who forgives you, saves you, gives you a new life, holds you in the palm of his hand, protects you, guides you.  There is nothing better, more comfortable than that.

When it comes to evangelism, we don’t have to be nervous, uneasy, or uncomfortable.  It’s not about me.  It’s about Jesus.  We can be all things to all people because the gospel is just that good.  Amen.

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GIVE GOD’S GOOD NEWS

Week 12 – 8.27.17

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Matthew 9:35-10:8

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 

 

“Dad, I’ve got some good news!  She said ‘Yes!’”  “Great news, Mom! I made the team.” “All that work paid off!  I got the job!  Let’s celebrate!”  “The Brewers won the World Series!  Can you believe it! We are the champions! This is the best news ever!”

Now, this kind of good news is pretty subjective, meaning it’s good as long as you agree with it.  What if you are the parent who doesn’t like the future daughter-in-law?  What if you are the kid that didn’t make the team because that other kid did?  What if you are the one who wanted that job or you are the one dating this woman who has to move to the new job?  What if you aren’t a Brewers fan (how is that even possible?)?  Then, the news isn’t so good, is it?

When we see Jesus today, he is traveling and teaching throughout Palestine.  He is seeing people in need of good news every day.  And what is his good news for these people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd? Is Jesus holding rallies protesting hate, spreading love and unity?  Is Jesus promoting better laws and leaders?  Is he providing superior schools and educational resources?   Does he offer affordable health care and top-notch hospitals?    Does Jesus give them all the money and pleasures this world has to offer?  For so many people, this is the good news they are looking for.  Their ears perk up and their eyes widen when Jesus is healing and providing for people.

But is that really Jesus’ good news?  No! Not even close!  He had the kind of news that was good no matter who he was talking to or helping.  He had news that was good for everyone, no matter their color, creed, or country.  He had news that was good for the sick and the healthy, for the religious and non-religious, for the hurting and the happy – it is good news for every single person, ever.

See, this is where the road splits between giving the kind of news that we call good and our topic today – giving the kind of news that God calls good.  See, giving our kind of good news is good as long as you agree with it.  Evangelism is giving God’s good news, his unchangeable, unconditional, and universal good news.

Do you know what his good news is?  I could stand up here and give you the full rundown for hours, but I’ll keep it short.  It’s not enough for God’s good news to be that you will never feel alone.  It’s not enough for God’s good news to remove sicknesses or diseases.  It’s not enough for God’s good news to get rid of bullies.  It’s not enough for God’s good news to be a relationship, a job, a championship for your favorite team.  And it’s not enough for God’s good news to give you ten steps to happiness.

God’s good news is that he came here to earth as Immanuel.  Remember what that names means?  God is with us!  God’s good news is that you are never alone because he came for you.  God’s good news is that Christ removed sin and death from your record and at your baptism, he replaced it with righteousness and life.  God’s good news is that there are no enemies for his children that he has not completely destroyed for eternity.  God’s good news is that Jesus purchased a home in heaven for you and you and you…

But it’s not just for you.  Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful.”  Our Savior looks out over ripe fields where there are no categories, only souls for whom he shed his blood.  God does not play favorites with this field.  God doesn’t pick spots during all these tense times in politics and society.  God wants all the harvest, all to be saved.  Yes, the racist, the rapist, the liberal, the conservative, the terrorist, the terrorized, the religious, the irreligious, the smart, the simple, the happy, the sad… All are in his harvest field!  He wants all not because of who we are, but in spite of who we are.  He wants all not because we offer him something special, but because he gives us something special.

This good news is the gospel!  And if this good news has come from heaven to our hearts, then what do you do with good news?  “Dad, I’ve got some good news!  Jesus saved me…and you.”  “Great news, Mom!  Jesus brought me into his family… and he’s your brother, too.”  “I was lost, but I have a Savior who searched me out and found me.  He’s looking for more.  Let’s celebrate.”  “He won!  Jesus came back from the dead.  The victory over death is ours!”

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field.”  “Ok, I’ll ask him to send someone else!  I don’t know if I’m the right one to share it.  I go to worship. I pray for missionaries and evangelism efforts.  I support with my offerings.  But when it comes to actually speaking the gospel to others, I’m not up for that.”

Or maybe you’re the type that says,  “I don’t know what to say.  If were are talking about accounting, construction, insurance, health care, then I’m fine.  But I don’t know what to say about Jesus.”

Or you are the one that says, “I don’t know who to tell. My parents and kids are believers, my friends are believers, most of my relatives have a church, I think.  My coworkers kind sound religious the way they use God’s name so much.  My neighbors… you know I’m not sure about…”

Or is it possible that you’re the type that puts yourself up on a pedestal looking down on others, “I don’t want to tell them my good news.  When have they ever done anything nice to me?  Why should I care about them?  Besides, I wouldn’t want them in my church, I see them at work or around the neighbor too much the way it is.”

If you fit into any of these groups, join the club. Did you notice the list of Jesus’ disciples? Did he send out religious leaders?  Did he send out wise and persuasive professors?  Did he send out people who were well liked?  NO!  He sent out Peter, the denier; John and James, the proud wanna-be-rulers in God’s kingdom, Matthew, the cheat; Simeon, the anti-government activist, Judas, the betrayer.  He sent out men who were not respected members of the educational community.  Jesus sent out people who had only known him for about 2 years.  As I look around today, I know that you have been with Jesus long enough to know the basics.  You know your sin and you know how Jesus has removed it from you for good.  That’s what makes sinners such good evangelists.  We personally know how God’s good news has changed us.

Do you really think I am a holy man?  Do you think Pastor Wolfe doesn’t sin?  Not a chance! Every single person is in the same harvest field.  I don’t go to people and point out my good life as the good news.  I give God’s good news, “My life would be a wreck if Jesus hadn’t intervened.  Let me tell you what he has done for me and what he will do for you.”

Jesus has answers to all our doubts or excuses.  Jesus tells the disciples to ask God for workers. And do you see the answer to their prayers?  It’s the disciples.  God can make that raggedy band his evangelists, and he can make you speak his good news, too.  If you notice, they went because they had Jesus’ power and authority to speak.

Some of you might still be thinking, “What do I say and who do I say it to?”  Jesus has that figured out for you, too.  “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”  That’s the good news.  Jesus came to us and brought his light of life.  Jesus has washed us clean and made us ready for the perfect paradise.  Jesus has empowered us with his Spirit to be witnesses of his saving work.

Now, who do you tell? Listen to what Jesus says, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Jesus wasn’t saying he didn’t want Gentiles in his church. He did plenty of ministry to them, as well.  Not to mention he died for the sins of all people.  This is what Jesus was telling his disciples, “Guys, as you get started with ministry work, go to your family and your friends.  Go to the people who know you, respect you, and who will listen to you.”  Jesus has put those kind of people in your life, the kind of people that you love to spend happy moments with, the kind of people who you share good news with,  the kind of people that might not have a relationship with your pastor (but maybe they could use that), and the kind of people who won’t bite your head off if you want to talk about God’s good news.  And even if they do, you have the kind of love and compassion Christ has put in your heart to handle that situation with humility and strength.

What Jesus is telling you is that if you are not interested in giving his good news to others, than that needs to change.  It needs to change! But if you’re a little nervous or just starting out, you don’t need to go to the mall or grocery store and tap people on the shoulder saying, “Hey do you know the good news?” You don’t need to go to work with a bullhorn and walk through the halls shouting, “Jesus died for you, your sins are forgiven, and heaven is open for you.”  You can go to your family members.  You can go to your friends and neighbors.  But you have to start with them.

Why?  Why do you have to get into the fields?  Why do you have to give God’s good news?  Is it because you have a God breathing murderous threats down on you if you don’t?  Is it because you will lose heaven if you don’t?  I think you know Jesus better than that.  Jesus says, “Freely you have received; freely give.”  Jesus says you have good news and good news is great when others get it.

When you get engaged, you plan a wedding and a wedding dance, because you want to share your joy.  When you make the team you are happy to be one of the guys.  When you get the job, you celebrate with people because that’s what a celebration is, a bunch of people being happy together.

Doesn’t that kind of sound like us when we are hearing God’s good news together?  Evangelism will be a burden if it’s all about trying to avoid God’s punishment.  The news ceases to be good if that is how you see it.  The only way God’s good news gets from your heart to your lips and to someone else’s ears, is with the power and compassion that Christ used to get it into us.  It was all him and it cost you nothing.

Free stuff is great because it’s easy to share.  Do you ever notice that?  If someone drops off a bunch of food, it’s easy to say to your wife, “We should have some people over to help us eat all of this.”  Or is that just me?  God gave you his good news freely so that you can be free with it.

Do you notice what is not a part of evangelism?  Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to each get 10 prospects.  Come to think of it, Jesus didn’t make any demands for results.  Do you know why?  Because the results can never be up to us.  We don’t save people.  Jesus does.  We don’t change hearts.  The Spirit does. We don’t make God’s children.  He does.

We speak good news!  God’s good news is what changed you and me, and that is the only thing that can help make an eternal difference for someone else.  Good news is good if a person agrees with you.  Evangelism is always good, because it’s God’s good news.

You were made for this. God called us out of darkness into his wonderful light so that we will shine for those who are still in darkness.  Jesus made us witnesses who are filled with his love and compassion, filled with his power and authority, filled with his good news.

And now there’s one little piece of good news left.  It’s time for the…Amen.

 

WHEN GOD SPEAKS…

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John 8

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

 

What makes a church what it is?  What defines it?  What gives it an identity?  On a day when we are celebrating the Lutheran Reformation, it’s a good question for us to ask.  A big part of the answer to that question has to be what the church teaches.  It’s not uncommon at all, therefore, that if someone is checking out a church they will probably wonder, “What does your church say about…  Where does your church stand on…”

Do you know how to answer those kinds of questions?  I’ve come to realize over the years that the real question is not what we believe or teach about this, that, or the other thing, but how do we get to our answers, what process do we use to answer questions, how do we arrive at our doctrines, or what means do we make use of.

One of the huge things that makes our identity at Our Saviour’s (and throughout WELS) is that no matter what the question is, no matter what topic comes up we will always and ONLY listen to God speak through his Word; we will go to the Bible for the answer.  It’s not going to be the Bible and popular opinion or philosophy.  It’s not going to be the Bible and traditional writings or practices.  It’s not going to be the Bible and churchly hierarchy.  It’s not going to be the Bible and family ties.  Jesus makes that clear.  He says if we’re talking about the identity, the fingerprint, of a church, of his disciples, then it needs to be his words. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  It’s the Bible, Jesus’ word, and that’s it.

That means when Jesus speaks, people should listen.  But that hasn’t always been the case for churches and religious people.  That was one of the huge problems going on for these Jews that we hear about in John 8.  They had the Old Testament Scriptures.  God had spoken his laws and promises through prophets and kings so that people would have everything God wanted them to have to recognize the real thing, the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus.  God had said things like: he would be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem, he would stay safe in Egypt for a while, he would be perfect, he would save people, and he would be rejected by many – you know, all that stuff that totally happened when Jesus came.  These Jews had even listened to Jesus for a while, but then they started to hear things that they didn’t like as much.  So as time went on they plugged their ears because he wasn’t what they wanted.  Instead, they focused on their ancestry to Abraham, as if your family line is what opens the doors to heaven.  They left out certain details.  They added traditions.  They threw the truth away. When God spoke, they didn’t listen.

This kind of thing continued on.  It happened in the Dark Ages, too.  The people had the Scriptures.  God spoke in the Old Testament, all his laws and promises.  And then God spoke in the New Testament.  The Word Incarnate lived here on earth.  Jesus fulfilled every law and every promise for us. He died for our forgiveness.  He rose to free us from death and hell.  He sent the Holy Spirit to work through Word and Sacrament.  But all of that was hidden away in monasteries and in the Latin language that common people couldn’t understand.  It was hidden by traditions and decrees of men who wanted power and control.  They threw the truth away.  Not many heard God speaking.

This kind of thing still continues.  God speaks in the Bible.  He shows us our sin in the law so that people will realize that heaven cannot be earned, and then God shows us how he, himself, earned it for us in the person and work of Jesus.  But people don’t want to admit that there is such a thing as absolute truth, or they tinker with it to make it sound more acceptable, or they hide some of the more offensive parts.  The truth is still being thrown away.  When God speaks, people still aren’t listening.

Plain and simple, this is called sin.  And we aren’t immune to sin, are we?  It’s a sin to plug your ears to even the smallest part of what God says.  It’s a sin to think that you have it all under control.  It’s a sin to say, “I’m a fourth generation Christian, I’ve been a member at this church for decades, I know plenty about God.”  It’s a sin to hold man-made traditions on the same level as God’s Word.  It’s a sin to put popular trends on par with God’s power.   It’s a sin to go a month, a week, even a day without listening to his voice.  There’s just so much of this kind of stuff in our lives.  It pops up everywhere.

Jesus gives us a term for this, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”   It’s true!  We get entangled by half-truths that sound close enough.   We get trapped by full-blown lies that seem to be so good because they work so well for other people.  When God speaks, we get caught not paying attention.

Maybe we try to argue like the Jews. “Slaves! We aren’t slaves.  We don’t fall into the same traps as those people.”  They were lying. They must have forgotten about 400 years in Egypt, exile in Assyria, another exile in Babylon, and that at this time they were subjects of the Roman Empire.  Later on, the Roman church lied, too.  They were forcing people to take what traditions and church fathers said and what councils and popes decided as if it was from God himself.  We often forget the times when we are dragged along by friends or family to say or do something we know is wrong, to “just let it go so there won’t be a disagreement,” or to plug our ears to God’s voice on a certain topic for a while.

Jesus goes on to describe what that slavery means, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  These Jews were holding onto their own ideas and so they weren’t children of God or of Abraham.  Abraham listened to God’s truth, even when it was hard.  He believed and trusted in God’s promises.  These Jews were living a lie and so they belonged to the one who speaks lies.  The Roman church was holding to their own ideas about the Bible and the church.  They were living the same old lies and so they belonged to the one who speaks lies.

The same can be said of us.  Too often, we are listening when the liar speaks.  And he isn’t interested in your welfare.  His lies won’t help you; he’s out to get you.  He’s an evil master who wants to make your life miserable with a combination of guilt and pride.  He’s a murderer, using the same stealth that brought death to Adam and Eve and this whole world.

But there is one person who does not belong to the devil and never has.  There is one whose words do not imprison us to a life of lies.  When he speaks, his words are truth.  That means when God says that he spoke everything in existence in 6 24-hour days, it’s the truth.  This world did not evolve from a big bang over billions of years.  That’s a lie.  That means when God says that plain old water can be so powerful that when it is connected with his Word the Spirit delivers forgiveness and faith, even to newborn babies, it’s the truth.  Baptism is not some outward ceremony of dedication.  That’s a lie.  It means that when God says his Supper of bread and wine is also really and miraculously the body and blood of Jesus, and that this supper offers the benefits of Christ’s death, namely the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, it’s the truth.  The Lord’s Supper is not just some representation meal to remember Jesus’ death.  That’s a lie.  This means that when God says salvation is a free gift of his grace, dependent completely and totally 100 percent on Jesus’ work and zero percent on our good works, it’s the truth.  To think an ancestry, a life good works, a long list of religious traditions, or anything else we do can in some way help God save us or earn us his mercy, well, that is a lie.

When God speaks, it’s true. But how do we know that it’s the truth? Because he’s the perfect God, who cannot lie.  But there’s another reason: Jesus.  2000 years ago he actually walked on this planet.  It happened.  It’s true. The Bible is not the only record we have of Jesus’ life and times.  There are other sources that acknowledge Jesus’ life.  Even the most skeptical of unbelievers admit that he was a Jew who lived in Palestine and died a Roman death on the cross.  Because those are true facts.

After Jesus died, he rose from the dead in the most stunning accomplishment of history.  And for a period of 20-40 years, there was no New Testament to prove it.  People didn’t have the written record yet.  Do you know what they did have?  Their eyes and ears.  They had the testimony passed on by eyewitnesses.  And during that time, almost a half century, people still believed that Jesus was God in flesh living in Palestine, that he had died on a cross as the perfect sacrifice for sins, and that he rose from the dead on Easter to defeat death and open the doors to heaven.  Thousands and thousands of people believed it to be true. Even the most skeptical people admit that many, many people believed the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  They don’t know why and they might not agree, but they can’t ignore the facts that before that New Testament was written this good news spread like only the truth can.

Those facts of Jesus are still the facts now.  Nothing has changed.  If we have a God who loved us so much that he would come to save this world, if he really did live, die, and rise for us, then you would expect him to be a God who also speaks to us.  You would expect that God would want people to know him and you would expect that he is fully capable of pulling it off. When God speaks through the Word, we would expect it to be the truth from cover to cover, on the big things, on the small things, and on the historical dates and names. When God speaks, we would expect it to be everything we need to know, not a good starting point, not something that needs additional information.  You’d expect it to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me.  You’d expect that revelations and the verbal inspiration that authored such a book to stop at some point, so that we would know that God gave us everything we need. You would expect that when God speaks it is crystal, perfectly clear, not confusing, not subject to many interpretations.  You would expect that if you open up this book and read it, taking it at face value, that you would understand that God loves you, that Jesus saves you, and that you have a new life to live for him.  Finally, you would expect that if God speaks in this book that he would ensure its survival.   And he has.  There are 5300 copies that have made it down through the years. There is no other book translated into as many languages as the Bible.  This Bible, these words of God, it’s the truth just as much now as it was before it was written down. And that’s how we have arrived here today.

It was 499 years ago that these facts found a lowly monk in Wittenberg, Germany named Martin Luther.  He wasn’t much, but this message, this truth is. And because of that fact, this lowly German monk was willing to take a stand for the truth.  He didn’t want lies to continue to imprison people with guilt or pride.  He didn’t want a church to hide it any longer.  It wasn’t his power that accomplished such a great thing, it was the power of God.  When God speaks, it’s the truth.  And so a lowly monk took on the task of speaking it, even when the big church told him not to, even when it threatened his life.  And do you know what happened?  This truth spread like God was carrying it from heart to heart.  People were released from the guilt and pride of sin.

And this truth spread to you and me.  Here we are in a Lutheran church, where the truth is present and where God’s power is working.  If that’s true, then there’s one more thing you would expect, that we would love to hear it.  If that’s true, then when that one day a week rolls around, just two hours a week, you’d expect that his people would love to be there.  If that’s true, then the things you’d expect to hear in the homes of his people would not just be the news, sports, or funny sound bites but also and most importantly the voice of the God who speaks.  You’d expect that we would obey what he says. You’d expect that our whole lives would be built on the foundation of his truth, not his words and popular opinions, not his word and politics, but his pure Word.  You’d expect that the truth would be our greatest treasure because it tells us the we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.  And you’d be right, because when God speaks the truth sets you free.

Amen.