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What about..... the Bible
"Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.The Bible continues to be the best selling book of all time. Throughout the ages,the Bible has provided inspiration,comfort and guidance to those who have read it.But is the Bible merely an inspirational book? It is this,but so much more! Let’s spend a few moments reviewing some important truths about the Bible. (more)
President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Because Christians are people of the Word, maybe just the discipline of learning and education was appreciated.
However, if that is the extent to which one’s Christian’s upbringing takes one, we know where that often leads. The result is usually that there are some nice, polite people, who recognize the discipline that the church gave them, and who can probably tell you that Grandpa Frank helped pour the foundation of the educational wing years ago. Like Paul, such a person might be able to tell you a few rites of passage that they went through in the congregation.
And yet, for all of that, if that is all that he or she has taken away, the individual has missed the whole point. For as St. Paul writes here in these verses- to know the history of the people of God, to know the Law which directs us in how we should live, and to participate in the rites of the fellowship of the congregation- if it isn’t centered in the reconciling work of Jesus Christ, if it doesn’t lead to Him as the firm foundation, if it doesn’t lead the person to recognize in the person and work of Jesus Christ who has brought us back to God, then, sadly, a person hasn’t yet caught the Good News that the Lord actually wants us to hear. And for such a person the church is but an heirloom, a fond memory but having very little impact on what it is that they actually believe; or in other cases, it’s simply a place of rules, a community that disciplines our lives
And sadly, that is all too common. Frankly human nature gravitates toward that, for it makes sense to us and we recognize it as a way to improve our temporal, earthly life.
Paul was certainly captivated by it, and with the self- discipline he mastered, he saw how he rose in the opinion of his fellow men, and like many, assumed that also meant the same in his relationship to the Lord.
Yes, he saw in himself the ability to do all that was necessary to please God; and like many, he took the respect of his colleagues and the position that he had as testimony of God’s approval of him.
And yes, sometimes when a person reaches that point that Paul did, that person can become one of the hardest people to reach with the message that the Lord actually wants us to hear and take hold of, which is the Gospel, because the person is getting the respect that they want to have. Their opinions are regarded, they appear before their fellow human beings to be people that have “all their ducks in a row” it becomes something that reinforces that idea that by their works, by their manner of life, by their piety they have gained a special position before God.
Do we sometimes slip into that mode? Maybe not as bluntly, but does it sometimes slip into our thinking that there is something within us, some work within us, some devotion within us that has given us a leg up with the Lord. I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago as we are going through the seven words Jesus spoke from the cross. In one of the recent sermons we were looking at Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross, where the thief asks, the thief asks, “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What does Jesus say? Did He look over there and say, “Hey buddy, you blew it. You had your chance?” No, He responds to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Do we really believe that salvation is by such grace? Oh, maybe the thief on the cross- because we are so familiar with it.
But what about a real life situation? But what about an enemy? Following World War II, during the Nuremburg trials, a military chaplain was sent to preach to, I think, 52* war criminals. Talk about having to preach to a tough crowd. His account of that time and of his ministry among them is remarkable.
However, what was also remarkable in his recollection was that while he was over there his wife was still back here in the states. What was remarkable was the amount of hate mail she received during those months, after people found out that her husband was trying to proclaim the Word to those criminals. There was all manner of hatred and vitriol hurled at her in those letters. People saying those criminals were our enemies. They don’t deserve to be saved. One one level, those letters were right- they didn’t deserve to be saved. What they wrote in saying that was true.
But what they didn’t realize was that neither did any of them. “But, but, but, ” we start to exclaim, “I was on the right side, I tried to do my best. I’ve lived better than they.” Oh yes, all sorts of self righteous thoughts creep up, by which we want to think that we are more deserving than of those other people.
It was certainly a hard lesson for Paul to understand- that he, too, needed the grace of God. Neither his boasting, nor his pride, nor his arrogance gave him any standing before the Lord. And if we are trying to put ourselves on a higher footing than others, we need to remember that we are not able to do do. Nevertheless there’s always a part of us that wants to say, “That’s not fair,” to which God says, “You’re right. It’s not fair. That’s why it’s called ‘grace’.”
And yes, it is really the gift that each of us needs in order to be saved. For as St. Paul writes chapter Romans 3, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yeah, we do- we err, we stray. When we are really honest with ourselves we know that. We know that even while we’re striving to do good, what is right and proper, nevertheless, we come up short. We really have no reason to boast of our worthiness.
But of course, this is the very reason that our Lord has sent Jesus Christ into the world. Yes, He sent Him that we might know and most importantly that we might trust that where we have fallen short, where we have erred and where we have strayed, that you and I have one speaks on our behalf- our Lord Jesus Christ- who for us and our salvation offered the full payment for our sins and so has washed away all of our guilt, and yes, has placed upon each us the beautiful robe of His righteousness in which we do now stand before our heavenly Father.
Yes, this is our confidence before God and by which we shall be raised to eternal life. It is that we are clothed in the righteous and holy garments of God’s only- begotten Son, in whom you and I may now be confident that we really do have fellowship with our heavenly Father.
Yes, this is what make you and me part of the church. It is that God has reconciled us in Christ Jesus. Whether born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth, or among the many working or middle class, or brought up in difficult circumstances, God has made you one of His own- not because of what you could offer to Him, but because of the all- availing life and death of His only- begotten Son- a gift which is therefore free to all and good for all.
Yes, this is the firm foundation upon which we all may stand. This is the One by whom we may trust that we will attain to the resurrection. For yes, this is the One of whom it is said that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” of whom we can all say, “I am chief.” Yes, we are all in our own way chief of sinners. But it is for just such sinners that Jesus Christ came. Why our hope is in Him. It was just for such people - those of us who do fall short of the glory of God- that He offered His life as the life giving sacrifice by which we have salvation.
*Actual number was 21 of which he ministered to 13.
April 7, 2019
Pastor Jeff Berndt
Sermon Draft: Phil. 3: 4b, 7- 14
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior- Jesus Christ.