Sunday, June 6, 2021

Offended by My Own Preaching

“The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’” – Matthew 15:12

The Pharisees attended the sermons of Jesus and, on this occasion, came accusing the disciples of breaking God’s law by not washing before eating. Jesus answered their accusations by accusing them of sin. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Jesus boldly confronted the Pharisees for their attempts to show spiritual and moral superiority over the people by adding rules to God’s Word in their tradition and even their willingness to sin against God to keep their added rules (Matthew 15:4-7).

The disciples seem to have felt they needed to inform the Lord the weightiness of His boldness in preaching and just who He was preaching to. The hostility of the confrontation led the disciples to ask if Jesus knew how offended the Pharisees were by Jesus’ sermon. Jesus answered that the Pharisees were blind guides leading others into a pit.

Jesus truly was a bold preacher, yet He preached as perfectly righteous. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus boldly preached, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus’ righteousness exceeded the Pharisees. Jesus is the righteousness of God.

The Pharisees trusted in their manners, the outside of the cup, but not heart change, the inside of the cup. Hence, when offended by such bold preaching from the righteousness of God, the Pharisees became angry and bitter rather than repent.

As a preacher of God’s Word, I must be bold. Yet, my boldness does not come from my own righteousness. To be honest, I am offended by my own preaching. Knowing God is perfect and I, His creation for His glory, am a ruined creature leads to an inevitable offense at hearing His Word.

There is preaching that may seem inspiring or even “telling it as it is,” but they fall into Paul’s warning, “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. They only do this to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ” (Galatians6:12).

I cannot make a good impression outwardly. Even as I preach a sermon I studied and prayed over, I am offended when confronted by the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ in His Word is a bold preacher to me. This boldness in proclaiming the bad news that I am a sinner fixes my gaze on the offensive cross of Christ where by faith in Christ the righteousness of God is mine.

When offended by such a bold word, I am tempted to run like the Pharisees into anger, bitterness, allowing my suspicion of other people to question their hearts and motives to justify myself. I have learned to ask God for humility. I hate being offended. It is an unsavory feeling. This makes the grace of God in His good news so delightful. Christ does not preach offensively to me, even through my own preaching, simply to make me feel bad. My offense is a welcomed pain because it drives me from myself and to my Savior.

Beloved, know when the sermon offends you, I hear the same sermon and am also offended. This is why I preach Law and Gospel instead of Law and habits. You and I need more than a change of manners, we need heart change. Good news, Christ the crucified and risen Savior changes the hearts of His people.

Heavenly Father, be merciful to us sinners, which Your Word proclaims us to be. You have graciously not left us in despair as sinners, but have granted pardon for sin in Christ Jesus our Lord. Make my heart delight in Your Law, even when Your Law offends us, to welcome You drawing us to Your grace to us in Christ. By Your Holy Spirit in us, form our obedience to You from the new heart and new creation You have made us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Christian's Fearful Courage and Strength

 

“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” -Psalm 2:11

Be strong and courageous. This was the command of God to Joshua at the death of Moses. A great leader the people of God had followed and known for forty years is gone, and Joshua had to take the lead. Where was such strength and courage for Joshua’s leadership to be found?

 “The Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

The rich promises of God’s presence with him always are found in God’s Word which says, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” How are we as followers of Christ to serve Him with fear, and rejoice with trembling? The Lord tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Jesus told His disciples at the very end of Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Christian, in your fear of the Lord, the Lord dismisses all other fears. When the fearful Lord is on your side, who can be against you? With His faithful promises yours in Christ Jesus, be strong and courageous. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, thus a wise strength and courage in which to obey the commands of the Lord in a world which assaults the worship of God.

Honesty and faithfulness at work, home, as servants in the Lord’s church, as citizens of heaven in our citizenship on earth will take the Lord’s strength and courage in you. To have tongues of truth proclaiming God’s Word to the world will be met with the fleshly temptation for cowardly safety, and at the end of our comforts in our following of Christ and His Word we will need His strength and courage.

Do not ask the world if they think it is right. Do not ask the world for safety. Truth and safety are not in the world. Our only safety and truth are in the Lord who says, “be careful to do according to all that is written in (the Law of God).” Truth is in God’s Word and our fear of the Lord sends us to Christ for safety.

Heavenly Father, You are holy and awesome in power. In fear do we approach you with trembling to rejoice in hearing You say, “do not be afraid.” Dismiss our fears and grant to us Your mercies of strength and courage by Your Holy Spirit to obey Your commands. Forgive us, deliver us from temptation, give us all the needed mercies to be faithful. In Jesus’ name we ask it, amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Craftsmanship of God

 

“We are His craftsmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” -Ephesians 2:10

Do you produce good works to the praise of God? Look at the world’s applause. From charity to words the world finds profound, applause goes to people, community organizations, and movements. People form non-profit organizations for causes and good works which are championed to fix some wrong in the world and driven by applause.

The church of Jesus Christ is radically different. First, notice Christians are God’s craftsmanship rather than works of our own creation or identity. We were dead in our trespasses against God, producing evil works. God made us alive together in Christ Jesus. God’s hands gathered the church for His eternal purpose as opposed to someone organizing a group for earthly purposes.

The Christian individually and the church as a whole are God’s craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus. The power of our repentance from evil and toward God is found being in Christ Jesus. Paul told the Roman church that Christians are more than conquerors of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword by being in Christ bonded in God’s love for us which nothing can separate us from (Romans 8:31-39). This is God’s grace of salvation in Christ Jesus, a free gift of God received by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did God create us in Christ Jesus for? Good works. The world is driven by the applause of the world. The church is driven by the joy of God. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). By God creating us into new creatures by His craftsmanship, we are in Christ and His complete joy is in us (John15:11). We produce the fruit of the Spirit of joy in the face of sadness and suffering!

Not FROM works, but FOR works. These are the works of God, creating new creations from old, bringing the dead into newness of life in Christ Jesus, in His death, burial, and resurrection. The church performs good works of love, serving our neighbors in our newly transformed minds, hearts, and bodies. Luther famously said, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

What kind of works? Jesus said at the final judgment when he returns, he will reward people for feeding him when he was hungry, giving him drink when he was thirsty, clothing him when he was naked, visiting him when he was in prison, welcoming him when he was a stranger. The righteous will ask when we saw Jesus in these ways? Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The world wants to produce these fruits to some extent, but only for applause that you are a good person, or your non-profit organization is a good group of people. The church produces good works in Christ Jesus for the eternal praise of God for we are His craftsmanship.

Do not produce fruit in hopes of applause that you are a good person. Produce the works for you created by God beforehand that you may walk in them. To the praise of God alone whom you serve in your treatment of the church and your neighbor.

Heavenly Father, all our minds, hearts, and labors are in Your mighty hands. Mold us by Your excellent craftsmanship into good works. Forgive us where we have been like the priest who passed the beaten man and craft us into the Good Samaritan. Produce good works of joy in the face of suffering and selfless service in this perishing, self-serving, boastful world to the praise of Your glorious name. In Jesus we pray for such mercies. Amen.