Rejoice in your triune God!

Trinity Sunday

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.  The word of God for our consideration this Trinity Sunday comes from the book of Romans chapter 5.  (Read text).  In the name of our triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dear friends in Christ:

“Guess what!  Guess what!  You’ll never believe it!  I can’t believe this is happening to me!  This is awesome!  Wow!  I’ve just got to tell you!  This is incredible!”  Have you ever experienced so much joy and pride that you’ve spoken words like those?  Have you ever been so excited you couldn’t help but announce it to the world?  Maybe it was getting engaged…maybe it was acing that difficult test…maybe it was getting that promotion at work…maybe it was…fill in the blank.  It’s great to be joyful and proud isn’t it?  And then there are some things that just make you proud but they’re always there.  For example, on Memorial Day we’re proud of those soldiers who’ve given their lives for our freedom so we might enjoy peace and security.

Certain special things in life make us proud and cause us to rejoice.  But all of these things are special cases.  They happen once and then some time later its business as usual.  The excitement wears off.  So what keeps us going from day to day?  Isn’t there something that we can rejoice in from one day to the next?  Something to make us feel good of when we get out of bed in the morning?  Something that we can claim as our own and boast about from one day to the next?  What do you take pride in?  Maybe it’s my health, “Well, I’m in decent health I can get around…I can do most of the things I enjoy…my health makes me feel secure.”  Maybe it’s my possessions, “Well, I don’t have everything that’s out there…but I’ve got the main things…life’s pretty good.”  Or maybe it’s my large network of friends or my job or that one thing that everyone says I’m good at.  But the problem is, when we find our security, our meaning for life, our pride and joy for living in any of those things we’re actually putting all of those things above God, and that’s sinful.  And when we put our trust in those things, they’ll always fail us, why?  Because none of those things can make life more meaningful, none of those things have any positive bearing at all on what really matters…and that’s eternal life.

So thank the Lord that God’s given us Romans 5:1-5.  Why?  Because here God tells us what we can take pride in, who we can rejoice in, who we can even boast in and about.  Who is it?  It’s our Triune God.  And why do we take pride in our Triune God?  Why do we even boast about our Triune God?  Because He’s our three-in-one God!

He’s God the Father.  He’s the almighty Maker of heaven and earth.  He holds all things in the palm of His hand and protects His children.  In complete independence He does not have to answer to anybody and He does whatever pleases Him.  And what exactly pleases Him most?  It pleased God the Father to look at this world of sinners who by nature can only rebel against Him and who deserve only punishment from Him and say, “My love knows no bounds, I declare you all innocent, not guilty, justified.”  And as God’s children we look at that and say, “Wow!”  With a holy and just God whom we should be frightfully scared of, you now have complete peace face to face with Him!  Everything is just right, just the way it’s supposed to be: you’re God’s loved child and He’s your loving Father.  You can take pride in that; you can boast in that; you can rejoice in that!

But something isn’t adding up.  How could a just and holy God ever make such a declaration?  “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You see, the second person of the Trinity is God the Son.  Although none of us could even add a speck to His infinite glory, in love He chose to live on this earth perfectly in every way because we couldn’t.  And He took upon Himself the full punishment for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the world and paid for them with His death on the cross.  By rising from the dead he proved His victory which is also your victory: your sins are forgiven once and for all!  And because of this “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”  Because of what Jesus did, you have access to the triune God.  He listens attentively to you!  You can take pride in that!  You can boast in that!

And finally how did all of this become yours?  “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.”  All of the blessings of God become yours through faith.  And God didn’t even leave that up to you.  No, He sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to work in you that miracle of faith in Him.  He sent the Holy Spirit to convince you that all He’s done for you is true.  And the Holy Spirit keeps on strengthening your faith and building your faith in Him through His tools: the Word and sacraments.  You can certainly take pride in that!

What an awesome Triune God we have, who has done such amazing and glorious things for us!  A God who we take pride in and boast in!

And then…we hear those troubling words whispered in our ear: “Oh wow, yea, look at you, you and your Triune God, some help He is for you, why look at you… you can’t do half the things you used to physically be able to do…oh and look at how great life ISN’T going for you…some Triune God you have… oh and remember that tragedy you went through… sure doesn’t look like that Triune God loves you, much less is on your side”  Yea, troubling words.  Maybe even more troubling when we read in our text: “We also rejoice in our sufferings.” Rejoice??!  The Greek is actually even stronger.  Literally, it’s the Greek word for how I started this sermon.  It’s boasting!  It’s being so happy about something that you’ve just got to tell someone, it’s overflowing with excitement, pride, and joy.  Now, how in the world can you react that way to suffering?

Because we know that God uses “suffering to produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us.”  Hope? Hope in what?  Hope in the glory of God.  No matter what happens to you, no matter what you lose on earth, no matter what the devil whispers in your ear, one thing God never wants you to lose: the glory that awaits you in heaven with Jesus.   No matter what happens, your Triune God continues to guide all things in order to bring you to your real home, your eternal home in heaven.  If suffering keeps us weaned off this world and keeps driving us back to God and His Word, then thank the Lord, because finally heaven’s  what matters most and that’s what your Triune God cares most about! And so we rejoice- yes, we boast! – in our sufferings, because they drive us back into the arms of our triune God!

And that Triune God; our three-in-one God; the Father who’s given you peace, the Son who’s given you access to the Ruler of all, and Holy Spirit who’s constantly pouring God’s love into your heart, that Triune God is YOUR God.  And your Triune God is with you and He’s the One who gives you joy in everything. And why?  Because He’s done everything and will keep doing everything for you with one purpose in mind: to bring you to be with Him where He is:  Yes, no matter what, no matter what happens to you, no matter what great joy you have, or what great suffering you experience, you can always take pride in, always rejoice in, and always boast in your Triune God!

Stand Firm!

1st Sunday of End Time – Reformation Sunday

Baptism- Matthew 28:19-20
Luther was born November 10, 1483.  The very next day his father took him to the church to be baptized.  Since November 11 is St. Martin’s day, they named him Martin.  He was also given another name on that day.  When the minister poured water on his head and read the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit,” Martin Luther was called “God’s son.”  Although for a while Martin Luther didn’t recognize it, on that day God made Martin Luther His very own child.

The same is true for us.  You and I, too, can look back on our baptism and see what a great miracle God did in each one of us.   He washed you clean from sin, put faith in your heart, gave you a new life, and claimed you as his very own child.  You also have the name written on you “God’s son” or “God’s daughter.”  And that’s GOOD NEWS!

Crisis in Life- Galatians 3:10
Martin Luther was a gifted student and studied to become a lawyer.  During his schooling he came down with a serious fever, once almost bled to death, and witnessed many people around him dying.  Perhaps Luther often thought about dying and what his relationship with God was.  He tells us that he saw God as a fearful judge who was never satisfied no matter what he did.  His soul was in turmoil.  Then on the road to Erfurt, lightning struck near him and he cried out to St. Anne- the patron saint of miners- and vowed to become a monk, surely he would find some rest for his soul in the strict obedience of the monastery!

Oh, it sounds so right doesn’t it?  “There must be something that I can or have to do to earn salvation; to earn God’s favor!  God simply is not dumb, surely he demands something of us!”  But what does God demand?  Perfection in everything.  God says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Cursed is anyone who relies on the law to be saved!

The Righteous will live by faith- Romans 1:17
You are forgiven!  Jesus lived a perfect and innocent life for you.  Jesus died to pay for every one of your sins.  Jesus rose from the dead to declare you innocent!  Your sins have been taken away.

But Luther didn’t understand this right away.  He spent his time in strict monastery obedience.  He was also put to work lecturing and preaching on the Bible.  The false teaching of the Catholic Church still caused him to misunderstand God and His Word.  Although he lived in strict obedience to monastery rules, his sins still gnawed at him and his conscience greatly plagued him.   He said, “I could not believe that he (God) was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God …”

The Lord worked through his powerful Word and convinced Martin Luther of the truth.  Finally, he understood.  The righteousness of God is NOT the righteousness God demands of us, rather, the righteousness of God is what He credits to us, it is a gift, it is free, it is ours by faith!  The righteous life Jesus lived is now credited to us- He took our sins on Himself and gave us His perfect robe of righteousness.  So, instead of earning or deserving God’s love or God’s forgiveness by something we do, God’s love and forgiveness is freely ours.  It is completely separate from anything we do or do not do; in grace God credits us with the perfect life that Jesus lived.  That’s awesome news!

Indulgences come to Germany; Taking a stand! 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
God convinced Luther through the Word that God is a God of love.  Luther dove into Scripture and little by little discarded the errors taught by the Catholic Church.  Luther proclaimed the truth of Scripture again and it caused quite a stir among the Church and the Empire. Specifically, when the Catholic Church was selling indulgences (pieces of paper that would “forgive sins”), on October 31, 1517 Luther posted 95 statements on the church door asking for a debate on this subject.  Luther wanted to get a chance to defend his teaching based on Scripture and to bring the Catholic Church back to God’s Word. Instead of debating with Luther on the basis of Scripture, the Church tried to please him, then threatened him, and finally the pope excommunicated him. The Church never did give him the chance to defend his teaching; rather they only wanted to hear him recant his teaching.  Finally, Luther stood before the Emperor himself and the Emperor asked him if he would recant or else he would be an outlaw.  Luther answered, “If I am not convicted by testimony from the Holy Scriptures or by common, clear, and evident reasons… and if I am not convicted by my own published writing, my conscience being held fast in the Word of God, then I can not and will not recant anything, for it is neither safe nor advisable to act against conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen!”

It sure didn’t look like Luther was in a position to win a victory.  How could he be right and everyone else in the Church, the great Catholic theologians, be wrong?  But Luther took to heart God’s Word, “”But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.” You and I take to heart God’s Word too.  Stand firm on God’s Word.  When society says God’s teachings aren’t “popular,” stand firm.  Stand firm on all of God’s Word.   When church bodies go away from God’s Word and trust in human teachings, stand firm on God’s Word!

Final Victory! Psalm 118:15-19
On February 18, 1546 Luther was on his death bed.  He was asked if he still held to all of the teachings he rediscovered from the Bible and Luther responded with a firm “Yes.”  After that, God gave Luther the final victory.  What great news when God takes one of His own to heaven!

What a God of love we have!  He sent Martin Luther to lead the church back to the good news of the Bible.  Like Luther we too want to treasure God’s Word, hold firmly on to it, and share its good news with other.  So finally, reassured from God’s Word we close our eyes in death only to open them in life eternal!  “Shouts of joy and victory…”

God has declared you Innocent!

12th Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 3:22-24

Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.  In the name of Jesus, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. God speaks to us this morning in Romans chapter 3, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Imagine being caught red handed stealing millions of dollars from the U.S. government.  How would you feel standing before the judge?  Nervous, scared, upset, guilty?  Now imagine that the judge in his verdict looks at you and says, “Not guilty, you are innocent?”  Now how do you feel?  Pretty good?  Certainly.  I think so.

All of us will one day stand in another courtroom, God’s courtroom.  God, the Judge, is the One who created this universe, He is perfect and holy in every way, He is almighty, and He does whatever He wants.

And, the holy God hates sin.  God says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Here in our text God says, “For all have sinned and (literally) all keep on falling short of the glory of God.”  Yes, God says “all have sinned.”  You can deny it, you can turn your back on it, but it’s a fact: you and I are total sinners and no matter how hard we try we keep coming short of the perfection God demands.  For example, God says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves at all times.  This past week have we done that perfectly, have we always put others’ needs above our own?  God says we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.  Have we perfectly held God above all else, above our money, our job, our fun?  If we are honest with ourselves we have to answer, “No, we haven’t.”

God’s justice demands that we pay for our sin with an eternity in hell.  But God has justified you, He has declared you to be innocent in his eyes.  How can he do that?  He points at Jesus and to the cross, and says, “That’s why you are forgiven.  Because of Jesus.  And I choose to give it to you.”  You are innocent by God’s grace.  You and I deserved death because of our sin, but God in His grace sent His only Son to live and to die and to rise again to give you eternal life.

And God hasn’t only declared you innocent but He has declared the world innocent because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  God says every person here is declared perfect and holy.  God has said not only every person here, but every person in Johnson City, every American, European, African, everyone in the world is innocent.  How does that affect the way you view your fellow man?  Jesus paid the price to declare your spouse innocent, your friends innocent, your coworker innocent, and your enemy innocent.  If God has forgiven them are you going to want to treat them like a jerk?  Or, are you going to want to spread God’s verdict to them so God can work faith in their hearts too?  Absolutely it’s the second!

And just think if God has declared you to be innocent, then who can hold the guilt of all of your past sins against you?  No one.  If God, the One who created the universe and is in complete control of everything, declared you innocent that says something about how very important you are.  If God is willing to send his Son to pay the price to declare you innocent, you can be sure He will be with you, He will guide your life according to His plan, and He will victoriously take you one day to heaven.  AND, God has declared you innocent!  Amen