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Archive for January 2018

Transformed by Faith

Transformed by Faith
January 28, 2018

Philippians 1:2 (ESV) 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last week we talked about being Transformed by God Grace, as we heard about how God showers us with many blessings. The illustration that I used was that of a waterfall, where the water like God grace comes from above and showers us below. Today we continue the theme as we are reminded that we are Transformed by Faith. Using the waterfall illustration of God’s grace falling upon us, there may have been some who think that God isn’t showing as many blessings upon me as much as that image of a waterfall. So if you ever thought that God only sprinkles blessings upon you or even less maybe it is like an occasion drip from a leaky faucet, then this is your week as we will look at being Transformed by Faith.

Let’s Talk about Faith, what is faith? Well it start with Jesus, not you. Many think that faith is simply a knowledge or an emotional response that we do. But Faith actually is from God, especially this is the role of the Holy Spirit. The result of which is that faith is truly by nature is receptive. It receives the gift of life in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit role in this is to create our trust in Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit who re-creates the relationship between us and God. The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word, especially when that word is attached with water in Holy Baptism. The author of the book of Hebrews notes: Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Since Jesus is founder and perfecter of our faith, we have a strong confidence.

Here is another illustration to think about Faith. I remember a few Christmases ago where some of the presents we were giving to the girls required some assembly. So late Christmas Eve there I was putting together a present. Some presents may even require batteries before noe can enjoy it. However God’s gift of faith is complete, no assembly required, no batteries, but a complete and perfect gift.

There is no maybe, or any uncertainty. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV) 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

So getting back to last week usage of a waterfall showing God’s grace, there is not doubt, God is giving many blessings because we are in Christ. For faith is not a matter of degree. It is or it is not. Like a standard light switch it is on or off. Faith is not ever described with a dimmer switch or needing assembly or batteries on your effort, but Faith is a complete gift. There is not little faith, or not enough faith, there is faith and there is unfaith or may I say unbelief.

We may be thinking to ourselves that there have been times we feel closer or farther from God. Or even like the father of the boy with seizures cried out, in Mark 9:24 (ESV) 24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” or maybe like St. Peter as Jesus even says as Peter was falling into the water Matthew 14:31 (ESV) 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” How we feel does not change how God view you, through your baptism as a child of God. Remember it is God name that is upon you. Since Faith is a gift from God, Jesus is the founder and perfecter of the faith, are we in Christ, yes or no. St. Paul notes in 2 Timothy 2:13 (ESV) 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

Revisiting the waterfall. Just because a person standing underneath the waterfall would be saying it only feels like God is dripping a couple of drops of water on me, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a deluge of water coming upon a person.

The author of the books of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

But when we look at our lives, we may question the deluge of God’s blessings upon us. The key to that last statement is when we look, and into our lives. Because when I look at my own life I see the imperfections, I see my sin. Our sinful nature wants to deny God’s many blessings so that we do not enjoy all of that God has given to us. Because of our sinful nature, we are unsure of the things of God. We doubt, like Peter. We focus on what we see, and we see the sin and failure in our lives and then we wonder if God’s word is true and working in our lives. Just like when people don’t see that God is giving many many blessings.

The struggling with our sinful nature while confident that we are saved by God’s grace led Luther to teach that we are fully righteous and fully sinful at the same time (Latin: simul justus et peccator). Luther meant that in God’s sight we have become perfectly righteous, without any fault or flaw, because our sins have been taken away from us by Christ. At the same time, we recognize that even the best of our human works still suffers from the imperfections wrought by our sin. There is nothing we can do that is pure in motivation or in execution as we wish it were. Nonetheless, we are confident that because of God’s Grace we are declared righteous.

As we are Transformed by Faith, we don’t let our guilt nor our doubt hinder us. Instead, we rejoice in the grace that God has given us so that we are free to praise God and love and serve our neighbor. We realize that we are abundantly receiving God’s grace and that grace flows through us to those around us. So like the father of the boy with seizures cried out, in Mark 9:24 (ESV) 24, “I believe; help my unbelief!” May the Holy Spirit open our eyes past our doubts to see the many blessings God continues to shower upon us.

In His Holy name, Amen.

Philippians 4:7 (ESV) 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Written by dballa

January 27, 2018 at 3:22 pm

My devil against the devil

Who is the one who bullies the bully? So when we see injustice being done in today’s world, and the bad guy is getting punished, we may celebrate with an arm fist pump, and a verbal “yea.”

Maybe this is what we should so when we enter church on Sunday. Some people quietly walk in, reverence the altar and sit the pew. But if we consider what Christ has done, and Martin Luther puts it, “For Christ is my devil against the devil, that I might be a son of God,1” maybe when we enter the church we should do an arm fit pump with a yea.

For Christ defeats the devil when Christ died on the cross. So Christ is victorious. But Christ does even more.

Luther in his explanation to the Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “But deliver us from evil.” writes: “What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”

Even though the devil is ultimately defeated, until the last day, the devil is still trying to create chaos for us in our lives. But we pray in the Lord’s Prayer that Christ would frustrate the plans of the devil and rescue us, and Christ does. When Christ disrupts the devil plans, it is like the devil saying, “Curses, Foiled again.”

So maybe, we should come to church with an arm first pump, but instead of “yea” we should just say “Amen.” For Christ defeats the devil and continues to frustrate the devil plans for us.

 

1 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 26, p. 164). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Written by dballa

January 18, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Transformed by God Grace

“Transformed by Grace”

 

Philippians 1:2 (ESV) 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, we begin our stewardship program Transformed by Grace, Faith, and Love. For this week, our focus is on stewards transformed by grace.

The text is from 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 in particular verse (ESV) 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Let me start with an illustration about Grace. Consider a waterfall, and we are at the base of the waterfall and the water is God’s grace. From our perspective, God grace is coming down from above and showers us. Now at the base of the waterfall you have a bunch of rocks. The rocks get wet, and overtime the force of the water will erode the rocks. It is not a perfect analogy, but consider the rock the hardness of our hearts. But when God’s grace comes upon us, God’s grace softens our hearts and we believe. But then what happens to the water. Well, if everything is working properly, that water flows from us to others down the river stream, so that God’s grace moves beyond us to others.

But what happens if we dam up the flow of God’s grace.

As we answer that, lets first look at the

The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

What does this mean?

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.

So forgiveness is part of God’s Grace to us. Grace can be defined as God Riches At Christ’s Expense. So what happens if we dam up the flow of God’s Grace, using the example of forgiveness, if we don’t forgive others. Luther in the Large catechism writes:

If, therefore, you do not forgive, then do not think that God forgives you [Matthew 18: 23– 25]. But if you forgive, you have this comfort and assurance, that you are forgiven in heaven. [96] This is not because of your forgiving. For God forgives freely and without condition, out of pure grace, because He has so promised, as the Gospel teaches. But God says this in order that He may establish forgiveness as our confirmation and assurance, as a sign alongside of the promise, which agrees with this prayer in Luke 6: 37,FOOTNOTE: Footnote

So the more we forgive, and see that forgiveness flowing through us towards others, the more we are assured of God’s grace. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. If we don’t forgive, for the stubbornness of our hearts we are not forgiven. However, this is our original sinful nature. We want it all, we don’t want to share, we don’t want to give.

I have another term for this. Spiritual constipation. We receive many blessings and gifts from God but as the name implies, nothing comes out. This however is not good for the soul. It is all about God’s Grace, as 1 John 4:19 (ESV) 19 We love because he first loved us. Notice the flow of God’s Grace. We forgive because He first forgave us. We give of ourselves, because He first gave to us.

But God’s Grace has transformed us as St. Paul notes in Ephesians 2:5 (ESV) 5 we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. So by God’s grace we are transformed from death to life. All because

Our Text St. Paul notes 2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. That Christ Jesus True God takes on flesh and blood. In doing so Christ did not use His Divinity, at least for Himself. Christ did perform miracles, water into wine, healed the sick raised the dead, feed over 5,000 but this was done not to His glory, but in service toward humanity and a witness that Christ Jesus is true God. Christ Jesus Himself notes in Matthew 20:28 (ESV) 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Christ Jesus takes on human flesh and blood to suffer and die for you. But it isn’t just you, it is for all people. But how do we respond to God’s grace for us? Is it all about you, or is it about the whole world. As we are Transformed by Grace, as Martin Luther said, “First we are freed from sin, and then we serve our neighbor with all our strength.”FOOTNOTE: Footnote

It starts with God’s Grace, transforming us, so that God grace works through us to other people.

Philippians 4:7 (ESV) 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Written by dballa

January 17, 2018 at 10:25 am

Posted in Sermons, Stewardship