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Sermon – Matthew 24.15-28 (Trinity 25 – 2019)

 

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we most heartily thank You that by Your Word You have brought us out of the darkness of error into the light of Your grace: We beseech You, mercifully help us to walk in that light, guard us from all error and false doctrine, and grant that we may not become ungrateful and despise and persecute Your Word, but receive it with all our heart, govern our lives according to it, and put all our trust in Your grace, through the merit of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

15 "Therefore when you see the`abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place " (whoever reads, let him understand),

 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

 17 "Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

 18 "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

 19 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

 20 "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

 21 "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

 22 "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

 23 "Then if anyone says to you,`Look, here is the Christ!' or`There!' do not believe it.

 24 "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

 25 "See, I have told you beforehand.

 26 "Therefore if they say to you,`Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or`Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.

 27 "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

 28 "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

 

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

 

Think about how swiftly God’s judgment came upon the world at the time of Noah. Noah preached repentance and the saving righteousness of God for many years, decades, warning the people of the coming destruction that would desolate the world. But the door of the ark shut, and the waters came.

 

Jesus, then, in our text warns the people of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem. They who have had such favored status before God had rejected God, and crucified the Christ. God will bring judgment upon them. And so Jesus warns them that when they see the “abomination of desolation” standing in the holy place, that is when they see the heathen and savage Roman army gathered about the holy city, run, flee the city! God’s judgment will come swiftly. They will not have the time to grab their coats, much less pack their belongings and their treasures. They think they will be safe inside the city walls, but rather they will be better off outside the city fleeing to wherever they may go. And if they hesitate to leave, it will be too late, and will be destined to suffer the horror of God’s judgment through the siege and ruthlessness of the Roman soldiers. God’s judgment will come swiftly.

 

So will His coming and judgment be on the Last Day. It will come swiftly. This is one of the points that Jesus makes here. As was the end of Jerusalem, so will be the end of the world.

 

The other thing that Jesus mentions are the signs that there will be before His coming. This is in answer to the disciples’ question earlier in the chapter, when they asked, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

 

And Jesus describes what will be some of the signs in the Last Days before that day of Judgment. In our text specifically He speaks about the false Christs that will come and deceive and lead many astray. They will be so convincing and promising that they would deceive even the elect if God did not intervene.

 

We are in the Last Days. Ever since Christ’s ascension until His return, we are in the Last Days. John even, late in the first century, points to false teachers as signs of the end of the age. He says in his first letter, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.”

 

Some will say he is in the desert. Others will say he is in the inner rooms. During the Roman advancement on Jerusalem, there were claims he was in the desert. Simon bar Giora in the desert gathered to himself an army. Many thought him to be the savior of Jerusalem. There are coins minted with his image and the title, “redemption of Zion.” But when he entered the city, he was a tyrant, murdering and torturing his own people.

 

And there were claims that the messiah was in the inner rooms. There were two men of the Jewish sect of the Zealots who claimed that deliverance from the Romans is found with them in the inner courts of the Temple. There they would be safe and find deliverance from the Romans. However, they, too, proved to bring harm to the Jewish people.

 

The messiahs they were looking for were still of the earthly sort, bringing earthly freedom and power to the nation of Israel.

 

This is an utter disastrous time for the people. You have the unholy defiling the holy place, the dangers of the world is increasing, you have false christs trying to lead believers astray, and all these are signs of God’s coming judgment!

 

These events of Jerusalem are a picture of what will be in these Last Days, which as has been said, we are in right now.

 

We have the unholy secular culture infiltrating the churches, replacing the truth of God’s word with all sorts of demonic doctrines. More and more are not only becoming indifferent to Christianity, but are making stands against the Church.

 

With all the dangers to Christianity in the world, there will arise false Christs. Which are these that people are pointing to. Many of them are made out to be of the earthly sort. They point to this one who will be a force in the government to bring about Christianity with laws and the sword. They point to the another who says he will protect Christianity and make it a dominant force in the world. And then there is the false teaching about the earthly rule of Christ, the 1000 year reign of Jesus in Jerusalem, these Jewish ideas of an earthly kingdom, that our Lutheran Confession reject.

 

Where else shall the devil seek to turn us for our help? He turns you to your works, or maybe a universalist Christ, where sin is no big deal, and everyone is saved. He will fill you with pride in yourself, that you think you may be able to stand and not fall by the deceptions and lies of the evil one. He will point you whichever way as long as it is not to Christ. And let us not underestimate the weakness of our sinful flesh, nor the cunning of the devil. Christ poses this as such a great danger to us. Be on guard

 

But there is no other Christ, there is no other Redeemer of Zion than the one revealed to you in Holy Scripture. The Church belongs to Him. He purchased it with His holy and precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. And He is the One who sits at the right hand of the Father, and has all authority in heaven and on earth. All things are under His feet and He is the head over all things for the good of the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).

 

The Church, The Christian Church to which you belong, is His body! He will care for it. He will care for you! Even amidst the violence and trouble the Church, He lovingly guards and keeps you, working all things, even the devil’s evil schemes, to accomplish His good and gracious will, which is your salvation. He will preserve His Church and prosper it, not that it may be a grand earthly kingdom, but that His Church that must now in weakness cope with Babylon, will be delivered from this fallen world, and flourish eternally in the glory of Christ’s kingdom!

 

So take heart in the Christ of Scripture, the Christ, crucified and risen for you. He is the One in whom you were elected before the foundation of the world, and no it is not possible for the elect to be deceived into unbelief. The Lord guards your faith that you may continue in the baptismal grace, the life of repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins.

 

Christ told the disciples beforehand of our dangers to body, life and soul, and here you hear of these things beforehand, that you may be on guard, and run to Christ in prayer who is your great defense. He is able to speak of these things beforehand, because He knows what shall come upon us. None of this catches Jesus unawares. He knows what troubles we will suffer in these Last Days, but He will keep those who are His own and will not lose a single one.

 

So, in these Last Days, we look for Christ now in His gospel in Word and Sacrament. And we wait for His appearing, and there will be no mistaking it when He comes, for what a show of glory it will be when He comes. And He in whom we now believe, will take us from this fallen world, and remove from us our sin and make us perfect body and soul!

 

Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.

 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

 

Sermon – Ephesians 6.10-17 (Trinity 21- 2019)

 

Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, by Your Son You have promised us the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life: We beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit so enliven our hearts that in daily prayer we may seek our help in Christ against all temptations, and, constantly believing His promise, obtain that for which we pray, and at last be saved; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

 

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

 

Christ has already defeated the devil. He crushed the serpent’s head. By His death, Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14). In triumph Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. Since He has become flesh like us, He, even according to His human nature has such power and authority. The Father has put all things under His feet. He, our brother, is above all, even the devil is crushed below His feet, as a one king subjects one whom He has defeated. The prideful devil must swallow the shame of his defeat.

 

Yet at the same time we should not trivialize the devil and treat him as one who is harmless. He tried to destroy Christ, but He failed. He desired to destroy the Church, but that is a futile task, for Christ is her Lord, and He said, the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

 

But the devil turns his attention to the Church’s offspring, that is, to Christians, to you. And the devil is a vicious foe. You, believers, are in battle whether you choose to be or not. If you wish to escape the battle, you must turn from God and befriend the devil, but then you of course would incur the wrath of God, and His judgment.

 

But because God is our Lord, who has redeemed us and has claimed us as His own when He put His name on us in baptism, we battle.

 

And so we are the Church militant. And this epistle reading is the Lord’s call to arms for you, His people.

 

Earlier in Ephesians, Paul speaks about how the Father has exalted the human nature of Christ above every power and rank in heaven, far above all principality and power and might and dominion.

 

But such powers and ranks are also found among the evil spirits, as Paul names in our text, “principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Such is the might of the enemy that is against us, of course, Satan being their head. And we are in the midst of them.

 

And the devil and his army wish to destroy us in body, but also in soul eternally. Consider in what ways the devil attacks and the results of his attacks. He used God’s Word and twisted it as He tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He afflicted Paul with a thorn in the flesh, some sort of ailment unknown to us. He pummeled Job with loss of family, property, and health. He accused Peter’s conscience. He influenced Herod to order the death of boys under the age of 2 in order to kill Jesus. And then Satan used Jesus disciples and friend, Peter, to try to keep Jesus away from the cross. Of course, it is no surprise that Christ stood, but we should not continue under the impression that this was easy for Jesus, for the devil’s attacks truly afflicted Him.

 

And then there is Eve who was tempted to disobey God with lies and deception. The devil tempted Saul to self-reliance, self-importance, and jealousy. The Satan and his evil forces placed before the eyes of Demas, a co-worker with Paul, the pleasures of the world, and he loved these as god. The same happened to Solomon. He accused Judas’ conscience which led him to despair. Here we see the variety of ways in which the devil works, sometimes bold frontal attacks, often through craftiness and lies.

 

His ultimate goal is to remove you from Christ. And the he with all his forces attack whether you are awake or sleeping, to accomplish his goals. He perverts good things into sinful thoughts and deeds. He takes love and uses it to idolize family, or to seek unity at the expense of pure doctrine. He takes caution and turns it into assuming the worst intentions in people. He takes your sense of justice and turns it into a vengeful spirit. He takes your generosity and turns it into self-righteousness.

 

The evil spirits put temptations before you preying on your weaknesses. They make sins look small when tempting you, and they make them look big after you fall, that you might have a troubled conscience and doubt God’s forgiveness.

 

They make you too busy to hear God’s Word or to pray. They strive to sow discord and resentment. They try to separate you from the preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments, and the congregation of believers, so that you become easy prey.

 

They cause trouble and trials in your lives afflicting you bodily, emotionally, and mentally, so that like the man in the gospel, you doubt the unfailing love and care of God, and forget that God works all things for your good.

 

How many other ways does that wicked army attack you?

 

And so you are enjoined to battle. You are wrestling. But you have something that you may stand even with the onslaught of attacks. You may stand because of the armor you wear. It is not your armor, but the armor of God. It is not your truth, but God’s truth. It is not your righteousness, but Christs’ imputed righteousness. It is not your opinion of peace, but the gospel of peace which is God’s message of reconciliation that is made certain by the resurrection of Christ. It is not faith in yourself, but faith in the sure rock of your salvation, Jesus Christ. It is not the helmet of your works-righteousness, but of the salvation that has been won for you. Nor do you have in your hand the sword of your wisdom, but the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, of which one little word can fell him, the devil.

 

Take on the whole armor of God. Cast aside every sin which weighs you down and causes you to stumble, this do with repentance, that in the forgiveness of Christ, all your sins are removed from you. Christ’s righteousness clothes you! Take care of that breastplate by absolution and the Lord’s Supper, which continually makes it whole! And stand in that righteousness, living the new life of righteousness which is yours since Christ now lives in you. We shall not have peace with our evil foe, but know that as you stand, you stand at peace before God by the blood of Christ. Though you fall into sin, you are restored by the gospel, forgiven, and put at peace with God again. By faith, you cling to Christ, who is your champion and victor. And stand with the Word of God as Christ used the Word of God against the devil in the wilderness.

 

This is God’s armor, placed upon you through the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, as you receive here at this outpost in the battle. They are not cumbersome as Saul’s armor was on David, but rather, they strengthen you, give you comfort and peace, and confidence in the victory that is already yours in Christ. They allow you to stand.

 

Notice there, Paul simply says “stand.” It is not up to you to conquer the devil and his armies. By the grace of God, we fend of the attacks of the devil, we confess God’s Word and pray. We resist the devil, and the devil flees. But the Lord calls us to put on the armor of God and stand. We stand, for it is Christ who fights for us.

 

It is as God said through Moses at the Red Sea, when the Israelites were trapped between the sea and the pursuing host of Egypt’s army. Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13-14).

 

The LORD of Sabaoth, that is, of armies, the Lord of our Church militant, of the Church Triumphant where the saints are at rest, and of all the angels of heaven. He fights for us. And our victory is assured in Him.

 

Though we see the battle, and suffer in this life, we know that because of Christ, all shall be well with us. For our lives, and our faith are in the care of our Lord. Our suffering will be a thing of the past, and in fact we shall see that Christ used it for our good. In the end, Christ’s blood-bought forgiveness and righteousness, which is ours by faith, is our salvation, our victory over the devil, and on that last day, the troublesome devil and his evil army shall be put away in hell, and you shall see them again no more forever.

 

Thanks be to Christ, our risen and victorious LORD. Amen.

 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.

ermon – Matthew 9.1-8 (Trinity 19 – 2019)

Forgiveness, Fear, Courage

 

O mighty and everlasting God, by Your Son Jesus Christ You mercifully helped the paralytic both in body and soul: We beseech You, for the sake of Your great mercy, be gracious also to us; forgive us all our sins, and so govern us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not ourselves be the cause of sickness and other afflictions; keep us in Your fear, and strengthen us by Your grace that we may escape temporal and eternal wrath and punishment; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

 

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.

 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you."

 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!"

 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?

 5 "For which is easier, to say,`Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say,`Arise and walk '?

 6 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins "-- then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

 7 And he arose and departed to his house.

 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

 

In disasters and emergencies, medical staff perform triage, that is they create an order of ailments or patients from those that are most urgent and need immediate attention, to the ailments and patients that are not so urgent.

 

Jesus performed triage on this man that was brought down through the ceiling, and he had two problems, one physical and one spiritual. Physically, the man was paralyzed. Spiritually, he was afflicted in his conscience, burdened by the guilt of his sins. The physical problem was plain to all, but the spiritual problem was plain only to Christ, since He alone being God is able to know the hearts of men. And thus seeing the problem of sin being the greater more urgent issue, Jesus deals with that first. For sin is the cause of all trouble in life. And so Jesus has compassion on this believer, for again He alone is able see whether there is faith in the heart. And Jesus speaks graciously to him, saying, “your sins are forgiven you.”

 

Then as it is now, those words of divine forgiveness are received either as joyous comfort, or are viewed as a scandal. Thus Jesus said to his disciples, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mt 10:22). And Paul to the Corinthians, writes about the source of forgiveness, the cross, “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Co 1:23) There were a few different reactions to this. And we’ll talk about each of these. One reaction consisted in the fear of God, and another lacked the fear of God.

 

The scribes were scandalized. What man can forgive sins? Certainly, they didn’t recognize Jesus as true God. As they silently objected to Christ, they would have done it thinking that they were being devoted to God. They were defending the honor of God and His law. Righteousness is through the law, they would have thought, and only God can forgive offenses.

 

Yet they did not fear God. As long as they were filled with self-righteous pride and held to works-righteous beliefs, such forgiveness, especially from such a lowly man is offensive. It is a scandal.

 

But there was another reaction to Jesus’ forgiveness, and His accompanying miracle of healing the paralytic. The text translates it “marveled”, though “feared” is another acceptable translation. Luke’s account of the same event uses the word “fear.” Fear may seem to be a strange reaction to the gracious declaration of God’s forgiveness. However, it is a proper reaction, as Psalm 130 (:4) states, “There is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”

 

This is not kind of fear that is the terror of God’s eternal wrath, the fear that even an unbeliever may have. Though the proper fear of God does recognize His just wrath. Jesus’ forgiveness means that we have sins to be forgiven. Jesus’ forgiveness means that we are rescued from the just wrath of God. And so since we are forgiven in Christ, we fear God, which means we recognize the fullness of His holiness and justice, but also find comfort in in His infinite grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, who by His blood has blotted out all our sins. And so through faith God receives us as His dear children instead of seeing us as children of His wrath. He counts us righteous instead of judging us as sinners. He makes you heirs of the resurrection onto life instead of the resurrection unto death! And thus because of such grace and mercy with which He forgives us our sins, we marvel at Him, and revere Him. And that is why our worship reflects this reverence of God. While we are worthy of being outside the ark experiencing God’s judgment, He call us into the ark into the Church to receive the gifts of His grace, His forgiveness and salvation.

 

Since we are forgiven for the sake of Christ’s saving work, and thus trusting in His grace, we fear Him, and we may also be of good cheer as Jesus speaks to the paralytic. You may be of good courage.

 

You may live in the full confidence that you are forgiven, and that the Lord receives you as His dear believer. This is the gospel message the Lord has given the church to proclaim. This is the ministry of the Church. Christ has given His ministers the authority to retain sins to the impenitent, but to you whose consciences are troubled by sin, Christ has given authority to ministers to proclaim to you Christ’s forgiveness. I speak it to you corporately, as a group, as I did earlier this morning. Or it is also spoken in private confession and absolution, which is beneficial for you when you have particular sins that burden your conscience, that you may hear the words personally and individually applied to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Whether corporately or individually, the word of forgiveness I and other called ministers of the word speak to you, that word of forgiveness is Christ’s very own forgiveness, for the pastor speaks in the stead of and by the command of Jesus Christ.

 

But then there are those who are scandalized by this forgiveness, especially a forgiveness won in such a lowly way as a cross, and a forgiveness spoken to you by Pastor Jo-shmo Sinner. The world delights when Christians fall into sin, and they cry out “How can you be a Christian?” How can you expect to be accepted by God? You’re a sinner! Righteousness is by the law, and you don’t keep it. But that same voice is in each one of us. The Scribe and Pharisee in each of us says righteousness is by the law. “How can Christ’s forgiveness really be a free gift? You must be worthy of it first. And you are not worthy. Righteousness must be achieved by the law at least to some extent, shouldn’t it? How can God just clear all my sins, and what good is that forgiveness that is spoken by the pastor? Who is he to make that declaration of forgiveness?”

 

But in response to this, did not Christ say on the cross, “It is finished!” Didn’t the Father raise Him from the dead confirming that forgiveness has indeed been won. Doesn’t Scripture say, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And it says that it is by grace you have been saved. Your forgiveness and salvation is a free gift won totally and perfectly by Christ.

 

He has redeemed the world, and has gathered to Himself a congregation of believers. The Christian Church is His Church and He has given authority to His Church to proclaim this forgiveness. This forgiveness is not some concept out there that you have to wonder how to get it or how it can be yours. But this forgiveness is concretely given to you and placed upon your ears in holy absolution, and it is placed upon your tongue through the body and blood of Christ given for you in the Sacrament of the Altar. So may these promises of God put to silence and conquer all doubt and offense whether it comes from the world or from within us!

 

You are forgiven, therefore fear the Lord and be of good cheer. Have courage! The Holy One of God who judges the world, has forgiven you! Live each of your days, and work in your vocations with this confidence! Amen.

 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.