Sermon "A King Like No Other" 11/20/22 by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Jeremiah 23: 2-6
Psalm 95: 1-7
Colossians 1: 13-20
St. Luke 23: 35-43
“A King Like No Other”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
During the Nazi era, many Germans abandoned faith in Jesus Christ as they joined the Socialist movement that was rising throughout the lands. As they left Christianity for National Progressivism or Fascism, they laughed in the face of Jesus. For you see, the rising powers of the new regime lauded Jesus as a weak spineless person who lost to the first Reich. Jesus didn’t command an army, nor spoke bold strength, but rather spoke in terms of love and gentleness. Jesus wasn’t some mighty force as the Christians confess to believe but was an ineffective water flea; an insignificant maggot that disparate know nothing Jews utilized to create a false religion founded on useless hope. Jesus was so ineffective that the domesticated Pharisees, who can’t hold a candle to the might of Rome, was capable of getting him hung on a cross.
The disrespect from the Nazis was nauseating as they piled filth on top of the Holy Church. They looked at the cross with distain and used their governing authority to target any Lutheran Church that would dare stand up to the Party in the name of Christ. Big Brother Government was God, and no King on Earth or in this “supposed” Heaven will dominate the power of the 3rd Reich. Eventually many Lutherans were thrown into the reeducation camps.
So in response to this growing movement known as Socialism, and all its seasick rot, the Church at large created a new holiday for the church calendar. The Roman Catholics, the Augustinian Catholics (Lutherans), the Orthodox Catholics, the Anglo Catholics (Anglicans), and many others united against the Nazis as they as one preached unanimously of the Kingship of our Lord and Savior. Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the church calendar was a direct response to rampant Socialism. And even in this Church, for Christ the King Sunday, you see on the white linen covering the altar the words in bold red, “Jesus is Lord.”
Jesus is Lord. Nothing on earth can change nor hide the reality of Jesus’ royal divinity. On top of that, Jesus is not just some mere lord, someone unaffiliated to us who so happens to have a rank, but is our Lord. Jesus is our Lord. He is our King. He is our Prince of Peace. He is the one whom we ultimately answer to.
In all reality, that is why the Nazis, and the authoritarian Socialist states that came after such the CCP, cannot stand the presence of Christians. We have a higher power that we answer to which trumps any fealty we may have with the state. No king on earth will ever be able to truly demand more love or adoration or obedience out of us than what we give towards Jesus our Lord. We love Jesus more than any human or human made philosophy. We obey Jesus more than any leader or government. We respect Jesus more than any human-made role or judgement. The real reason why the Nazis hated Jesus is because He was in their way. Yes they laughed at Him and falsely labeled Him as weak, but all of this was to disguise their fear of Jesus and the divine might that is behind His Word.
They, like all other totalitarian maniacs that came before them, attacked Christianity because they knew that if we had to pick between God and politics, then we would always choose God. Why? Because He is our Lord and our King.
Yet what is so interesting is that the arguments of the Nazis and all the other socialists are quiet similar to the arguments made by the Pharisees. The Pharisees wanted mighty political King of the lineage of David who commanded an undefeatable army to rise up suddenly through the grace of God against the Romans who ruled over Israel. They, and many Jews, misunderstood Scripture to mean that the coming Messiah was going to be a political figure and was going to reestablish Israel as the mighty earthly kingdom forevermore. They had earthly grandeur in their eyes, and couldn’t see the reality of Jesus’ true might. To them He was no powerful charismatic figure that could trample the Roman Armies. Instead, he was meek and kind, though at times understandably wrathful and downright rude. He commanded no army, so he was a fake. Therefore they snatched Him in the middle of the night and on the next morning crucified Him as they laughed and mocked Him for dare claiming He was a king.
The Nazis mocked Jesus the same way the Pharisees mocked Jesus. The Nazis and the Pharisees couldn’t stand the sight of Jesus, and their desire for might guided them towards persecution.
In their insistence to rid themselves of this weakling of a false messiah, they nailed Jesus to a tree. The Roman Soldiers mocked Jesus and had a sign that wrote “King of the Jews” above His head. Little did they know how right they were. And to make the point even more nauseatingly obvious, the Soldiers and people proceeded to slander His good name with phrases such as, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One,” and, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself,” and a criminal, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” And almost as if His suffering was proof of their right to mock Jesus they continued to harass their one and only true king. Jesus didn’t fight back; He took every insult and every punishment. The mob took this as justification for their malice. They thought Jesus was weak and had given up, but their eyes were too clouded to see the reality that faced them.
In our Gospel only one person had the fear of God, and that was a criminal also nailed to a cross. He who knew he deserved death, saw an innocent man being berated by all around him. He saw a crowd of sinners attacking their God, and he was terrified of what God the Father might do to them. As for his fate, he was ready, so he looked upon his Lord and King simply asking for remembrance. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And in response, Jesus proved his might and authority which can overcome sin and death by proclaiming to the criminal what can only be aptly described as an act of God, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It wasn’t until after Jesus died and the skies turned black and the earth shook and the curtain of the temple torn in two and many rose from the grave that the despair in knowing what they had done suck in. A mortified centurion present for the public mocking and crucifixion uttered to God, “Certainly this man was innocent!” As for the Jews present, I cannot imagine the horror on their face when they realize that they just murdered their Messiah.
Now all is not lost, and we know this for certain; for our King is not like other Kings, and or Kingdom is not like other Kingdoms, and the war we fight is not like other wars. Yes Jesus is mightiest of all Kings, but not by human standards but by divine standards. He is the King of Kings from which all authority stems. If He liked He could have just annihilated the Roman Army and dismantled Caesar’s throne with a snap, but He is not like other kings. Kings conquer with armies. Jesus conquers by turning the hearts of humans. Kings sends mighty forces to take land. Jesus sends messengers of His word whether human or angel to spread His Kingdom through the Word. Kings command others die to protect themselves. Jesus died to protect everyone.
Jesus is not like other kings, He is far more powerful. He does have to use the power of the sword to spread His Kingdom, He just wills it so.
And His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. Kingdoms on earth come and go, but Christ’s Kingdom never goes away and is constantly growing, even pass the limits of this earthly plane. Earthly Kingdoms have criminals and must use fear to curb crime. Christ is so mighty that His Kingdom is void of sin completely, not on account of fear but grace. On Earth we starve and suffer want, but in Christ’s Kingdom there is no need to worry about such things for Christ is the Living Bread through whom you will never thirst nor hunger.
And war; the war we fight is radically different than the wars fought by earthly kings. Whereas military Soldiers use blades and bullets to kill the enemy, Christians Soldiers wield the Word of God on our lips to save our enemies. Whereas the wars countries fight is against men. The war Christ has already won is against the Devil and his entire army of demons. You claim my Lord is weak, did your little earthly king defeat the most powerful immortal force of evil and an entire spiritual army with not a single casualty (Christ rose from the grave)? No? I think not! My King is not like your King. He died for me, rose for me, lives eternally for me, and has given to me Heaven. This is why Jesus is my Lord. This is why I will worship Him to the end of my days. This is why nothing on earth will ever trump by love, fear, and obedience to Jesus.
And to the ones who may desire to test my metal, whether it be Nazi or Pharisee, or even the Devil himself, try me. Our Lord is strong, and is with us, and can never be defeated.
Let us pray,
Dear Heaven Father, when the earthly and demonic forces attack us and our divine citizenship, give us the strength to stand firm in your Word, bolding proclaiming that we serve first as servants of the Lord. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 11/13/22 "On Death Row" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Deuteronomy 10: 12-22
Psalm 34 2
Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
St. Luke 18: 9-14
“On Death Row”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
With Veterans Day just a couple of days ago, this sermon might feel a little odd because it connects more with Memorial Day. To be more accurate, this sermon connects more with martyrdom. You see, the second lesson is not a letter from Timothy, but rather to Timothy from Paul, and this letter is one of his last letters, if not the last letter, before his execution. During those days most of the disciples and apostles suffered the similar fate of execution. You have Steven in Acts, you have St Peter, and you have St Paul, to name a view. So when you read 2 Timothy, read it from the lens of a man who knows he is about to die.
Paul has come a long way since the day he orchestrated the death of Steven in Acts. The first Christ martyr was killed at the hands of then Saul now Paul. If there was anything Paul should have been ashamed of, it was the life he lived before Christ. He was the chief of sinners and the worst of persecutors at the time. Yet through the glory and mercy of Christ who presented himself to Saul, he was saved and renamed Paul. Since the fateful day when Christ blinded Paul, he had been on a very long journey. After he professed his faith in the one and only true Savior, he went out into the world no longer the worst of persecutors but instead one of the most influential of God’s chosen.
It’s interesting that the fate Paul once dealt before he was saved had gone around and circled back to him as faced a similar fate. Paul in his youth was on a hell bent mission to execute the Jews who had joined the “heretical Jewish cult,” known as Christianity. Paul in his elder years was to be executed for just that. So before he departed this world for the crime of being a Christian, he had a few last words he wished to pass on to his protégé Timothy.
“I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Paul had been put to the test multiple times on account of his new found faith. Those he once persecuted had trouble accepting him as one of their own, an enemy turned brother. Those he once worked with saw him as a traitor. The governments of the world targeted him multiple times, and continue to do so even today. Even the sins that haunted him from his past test him. Being a Christian is not an easy thing, for some every day brings a new trial. Yet Paul did not give in and was capable of keeping his faith to the end of this treacherous journey called life.
“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” No matter what life threw at him, his eyes remained on Jesus Christ his Savior; for he knew that Christ had prepared for him a place in Heaven, not on account of his actions, but solely because he had faith in Jesus Christ. Upon his death, Paul was awarded by the Lord a righteous crown. A wreath of 3 salvation was placed upon Paul’s head as he walked through the gates of Heaven. This crown is not for Paul alone, but for all whose faith in Christ remains to the very end. For all who die with faith will be crowned in Jesus’ righteousness, washed forevermore from sin’s demise, and be made kings and queens. Here on earth, as Christians, we have a mighty inheritance promised to us on account of our adoption through baptism into the holy family of God. When we die the inheritance, which is a crown of glory and Heaven itself, it is finally presented to us. Paul knew this, thus he had no fear in his destination as he walked like a quiet lamb to his death.
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!” Humans are weak and will fail you, sometimes when you are in the most need for help. If you rely on humanity to meet your needs and to provide a steady hand do not be disappointed when even your brother turns against you. Christians are still sinners, and though we should not sin against each other, we still do. Paul suffered a similar fate where no Christian rose to defend Paul upon his imprisonment. And when he was to be executed, what human help was there? If you trust in humanity, you will be sorely disappointed. Paul did not trust humanity. He who was the chief of sinners knew the wickedness in the human heart.
Thus, instead of getting mad at his fellow Christians who abandoned him, he asked the Lord to be merciful to them. Similar to how Christ said upon the cross, “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” Paul did not trust humanity, but he didn’t need to. He trusted in the most powerful being, our Creator, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God never goes back on His word. He fulfills all His promises. There is no need to doubt the grace and mercy and providence of God. Therefore, why should Paul trust in humanity when all he needed was God? When humanity abandoned Paul, God stood with him. When Christians didn’t provide words of courage, God strengthened Paul so that he might face his death knowing that there is a better reward in Heaven. When many told him to be quiet around the non-Christians lest they might get angry, God guided Paul towards the Gentiles and fearlessly proclaimed the Good News to them at the cost of his own life. For in the end, proclaiming the Gospel is more important and rewarding than living even one day longer. By trusting in God to the point of death, Paul was rescued from the lion’s mouth which holds in its belly eternal death.
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” And with a final greeting that proceeds after this verse ends the final message from Paul before he died a martyr for Christ.
Paul was on Death Row for the crime of being a Christian. He preached the Good News, without fear of who he was preaching to and where he was preaching. There was never a time to not preach, there was never a person who shouldn’t receive the Gospel. This cost Paul his life, but rather we obey God and suffer execution than it is to obey Man and suffer eternal damnation. Therefore, on account of his insistence to obey the Great Commission commanded to him by God the Son, he was placed on Death Row.
Yet behind the words of this letter, you can almost feel another message. Paul is unashamed. He is not ashamed of being executed. He is
unashamed of his faith and his insistence to preach the Good News which ultimately is the reason why he is being executed. To be ashamed is to allow the Devil to win. To feel shame would be to Paul an act of extreme selfishness as his own reputation would become more important than God’s. If there is any shame within Paul it would be over his prior life as a persecutor of Christians. However, to feel shame for becoming a Christian Martyr never ends well for that is exactly what the Devil wants. He wants you to choose life over Christ.
Paul was unashamed and was glad that through every trial God protected him and strengthened him spiritually against the fiery darts of the Devil. No matter what Paul faced, God strengthened him so that at the end of each leg of the race Paul ran victorious, still a Christian whose faith was unquestionably sound. Know this, if we hope to finish the race of life with our faith intact then we most certainly need the help of God. The Devil will throw many difficult things at you. Your brother might betray you and try to get you thrown indefinitely in jail for being a Christian. Your friends might abandon you. Execution might become your partner. Without the strength of God on our side, then we will abandon our faith. So you who are close to death knocking on your door, but have remained a Christian through thick and thin, know this, that is on account of God who has stood by your side, has strengthened you, and has rescued you from the lion’s mouth.
Do not be ashamed of the path God has chosen for you. Be like Paul. He knew that the end was coming, so instead of feeling self-pity he turned to those younger than him and passed the torch. Paul may have finished the
race, but that did not mean that the race had ended. It still goes on. Paul looked not at his own demise, but on those who were left behind. Paul is basically telling Timothy it is your turn to carry the torch. Have faith in Jesus Christ your Savior, who already died on the cross for your sake, and so long as you do that we will be reunited. This life is nothing compared to the eternal happiness we will share in Heaven through Jesus Christ.
So what are some of the things you can do? When death comes, gracefully receive it. However, before this happens encourage faith in Jesus Christ to others. Teach about His benevolence. Pray for the Spirit to give generously
courage and divine love. And let it be known that you are not ashamed of your faith.
Let us pray, Dear Heavenly Father, no matter what the Devil throws at us, give us the courage and kindness to overcome all his obstacles and to willingly walk towards death as firm believers in your generous saving grace. In your most heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
Sermon 10/30/22 "Slaves No More" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Romans 3: 19-28
St. John 8: 31-38
“Slaves No More!”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
One of the hardest pills for loving Christians to swallow is the unfortunate reality of our complete and total ineptitude to do anything that is remotely good on account of our own human abilities. It’s hard because many do not want to fathom that their brother or mother or friend is an evil person totally enslaved to sin simply because they are not a Christian. We would like to believe that our pagan neighbors are capable of loving God, of acting out of love, of praying to the Triune God, of doing one act that is not subject to sin. God tells us that the opposite is unfortunately the truth. No one is born capable of loving or trusting God, but rather sin compels us to hate God. No one is born capable of loving they neighbor, but is rather taught by the world a twisted form of love that is completely infected with sin. No one is born capable of conducting one single thought, word, or deed that is void of sin, but rather due to original sin all are born slaves to sin. That is the harsh reality we live with; that on account of our own fallen human nature we who are sinners cannot hope to rely on our own abilities to do that which is void of sin.
This naturally leads to the other hard pill to swallow, and that is all are born already damned to Hell. It’s easy for Christians to acknowledge there is a Hell, but it’s hard for loving Christians to fathom that there is anyone in Hell. I’ve heard some say that there
is a Hell, but it’s empty. Such a statement can be translated as such: you don’t need Christ in your life because he already forgave you of all your sins. This is a much more horrifying statement and will naturally lead to a decline in Christianity. No, we need Christ in our life because we are born already with a one-way ticket to Hell and no hope of entering Heaven on account of our own fallen human abilities.
Again, these are hard pills to swallow, but we need to acknowledge them for the sake of saving as many people as possible. If left to our own devices we would try and work ourselves into Heaven which always lead to failure. As sinners, we want to think we can save ourselves, that we don’t need the help of God, but naturally all that ever leads towards is abandoning God. We cannot save ourselves. And if we can stomach the fact that we are born sinners who are slaves to sin and are wholly incapable of doing anything within our own power to obtain salvation then no longer will we turn to ourselves and the world for salvation but instead towards God.
So often do we want to take matters into our own hands, even Christians. Look no farther than the Church of Rome during the Reformation. They taught that salvation came from observing the Law. They also taught that the more good things you do and the more money is given to the Church the more likely you will go into Heaven. The Church of Rome was trying to take matter into their own hands and teach that one can save themselves. Sadly, all that accomplished was enslavement to works. They became distraught over their own salvation, never know for certain if they would enter Heaven, and thus abandoned faith. No longer did
they relied on God for salvation, but only in their own fallen human abilities. They were slaves to sin, and instead of being set free through faith, they only doubled their chains.
The Old Adam within us is so terrified of reality; of the fact that we cannot save ourselves. Sin does not want to recognize sin. Now if we but just confess that we don’t got this and turn to the Lord God for help, allowing the Holy Spirit to enter us,
allowing Jesus to take that one way ticket to Hell from us, then you are saved. If you release your insistence on trying to save yourself and turn to Jesus who already died on the cross for you, then know this, you are free, no longer a slave to sin, but a freeman; free not on account of your works or merit, but only on account of grace.
This is the lesson Luther was trying to teach the Church and the lesson Jesus was trying to teach the Jews. You are slave to sin, but through faith in Jesus Christ you are set free from the burdens of trying to save yourself.
Let me ask you this, which would you rather be judged by: the Law or the Gospel? In other words, would you rather merit salvation on account of your actions which without the help of God are totally subject to sin or would you rather merit salvation on account of the forgiveness of sins that comes graciously from Christ who died on the cross to take away that which was preventing you from entering heaven? Which sounds easier and more blissful?
If you try and save yourself via the Law, you will fail; for the Law does not justify nor save, but rather shows you what a just and saved life looks like. The Law shows you how you ought to act, and simply that. If you want to know what a sinless life looks like then look at the Law and no further, but if you want to know how to be justified you need to look beyond the Law. The problem is the Law does not justify, and as sinners if we wish to enter heaven we need justification. If you turn to the Law for justification, you will not get it. Instead, the Law will act as a curse as it points out to you your complete inability to truly follow the Law. Under the Law, your only reward is Hell.
On the flip side, if instead of saving yourself you turn towards the gracious gift of Christ, having faith in His redemption which came only on account of Him willingly sacrificing Himself so as to take on all of our sin, then your reward is indeed Heaven. By realizing your enslavement to sin, you can truly turn towards the only means of freedom and Salvation which is through faith alone.
Now I can imagine many Americans acting like the Jews whom Jesus is currently speaking to in today’s Gospel. What do you mean I’ll become free through you? I’m an American, a citizen of the freest country on Earth, and I have never been enslaved to anyone. Yes, physically you have never been a slave, and it is true you are an American, but truly, truly, I say to you, everyone, including yourself, who practices sin is a slave to sin. The similarity between these Jews and pagan Americans is that both have yet to recognize that they are slaves to their own sinfulness. But once they swallow this hard pill, the next step becomes incredibly easy. As they turn away from vain attempts of
self-gratification and self-earned meritocracy they will start to look outwardly. Once they realize that it is humanly impossible to achieve Salvation then they will search for a higher power that already paid the price. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, turning towards Jesus and His free gift of eternal freedom becomes one of the easiest things on earth.
The goal of Lutherans is to provide hope to the world through the name of Jesus Christ. We do not damn people to Hell, but rather expose to them that they are already damned, for if you do not believe you are damned why in the world would you want to be saved? And once we expose they are already damned and incapable through their own power to save themselves, we swiftly turn to Christ for our goal is to not keep them in despair but rather show them that hope is already here. Whereas there is nothing they can do to save themselves, they don’t have to do anything. For when Christ died on that cross He took on all our sins and asks that you but allow Him to sanctify you. Therefore Christ has already done everything; the battle has already been won! There is no waiting list, therefore if you turn in faith toward your Savior then right then and there you are saved.
Slaves no more. Now is that not the truth? That’s all Luther wanted for the Church at large, to tell his fellow Christians that they are no longer slaves to sin but are already set free through faith. He wanted to tell them that there is no longer any reason to despair but to lift their hand and rejoice for the Son of God has already saved them and that the promise of heaven is theirs no on account of their own merit but only on account of Christ. He wanted to light a spark of joy in the hearts of man, to bring life in
the eyes of the believer so that no longer will Christians walk to Church with dead eyes doing this or that to obtain salvation, but instead come to Church and obey the Law because they know that they are already saved. Now, for those who aren’t Christians, we want them to come to Church because they are slaves to sin. But as for Christians, we want them to continue to come to Church with elation because no longer are they slaves but truly free and only free wholly on account of the sacrificial propitiation of Christ.
Now as I provide this sermon, talking about Martin Luther, freedom through faith, and America, I noticed that there is a famous speech provided by a famous American pastor that aligns quite well with what I’m imploring. Sadly the history books will like to exclude the fact that he is indeed a pastor and too many Americans, though inspired by this individual, have no clue that he is a pastor; Reverent Martin Luther King Jr. Though not a Lutheran, Pastor Martin knew his name sake and his ministry was completely influenced by Martin Luther and the Reformation. He drew inspiration from the Lutheran Reformation as he studied the intent of his name sake, Martin Luther, who desired not to split the Church but rather unify it, and unify it under freedom through faith. The Reformation was an eye-opening event that exposed the slavery under works. Martin Luther was trying to liberate his fellow Christians by pointing them in faith towards Christ; preaching loudly to the Masses, He already saved you!
The ministry of Pastor Martin Luther King Jr took the same trajectory. Though it is obvious that many of his speeches outside the church was with regards to civil liberties, that does not mean
that under each of his speeches undertones of spiritual freedom was void. I mean, he was a conservative pastor, so of course every one of his speeches will have religious undertones. But as I preach the ending of his most famous publicly given sermon, I ask that you listen closely to the connection between it and todays Gospel and the Lutheran Reformation:
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
“This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.
“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New
York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
“And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.” (“I have a Dream”).
Slaves no more, but free at last; not through the power of man but wholly on account of Christ’s sacrificial grace.
Let us pray,
Dear God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, to you be all glory and might for you alone are good and you alone are capable of saving. Though we do not deserve it, you sent your Son to die on the cross any ways to save us of our sins. You ask nothing in return, but only that we allow Christ to save us. Give us the humility to turn away from selfish salvation, and to humbly turn towards your life giving presence. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 11/06/22 "Don't Stop Believing" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Genesis 32: 22-30
2 Timothy 3:14- 4:5
St. Luke 18: 1-8
“Don’t Stop Believing”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
When I worked in a cancer ward in Pittsburgh there was one man I visited every day. He was a very faithful person who understood the fear of the Lord, but he had trouble with the Gospel. His fear paralyzed him, and though he would ask me often to pray for him, he himself never prayed. He once told me about how he believed he did not deserve to go to Heaven and how he had done horrible things in his life. He was so weighted down by his own guilt that he wondered why God would ever listen to his prayers. It was better off that he punted the act of prayer to someone nobler than he. His insistence was born out of a desire to be heard by God hindered by his belief that God would not hear him. He looked up to the Lord God with reverent fear and seeing the Son upon the cross his fear of retribution for his sins overshadowed the blessed redemption of Christ. He looked up, and saw no help.
Additionally in college, I had seen so many people get so swept up by the charismatic movement that they lifted up their hands in praise as they worshiped this amazing God with a new fervor of emotional highs. These people who were once agnostic were made Christian through the power of loud music and theatrics which confused their hearts and the brains as ramped up endorphins disguised themselves as the Holy Spirit. Some
eventually went on to be incredibly faithful Christians, but all too often I saw these pleasure seekers crumble under the weight of the world. For some, their faith was proven to be worthless as they were put to the test through trials of fire. As the beating sun pummeled them with reality and the veracity of evil attacked their fragile conviction, the hell fire that Satan threatens Christians with in this world burned what little elation they had and these young Christian pups came out of the blazing furnace as not precious gold but charcoal that disintegrates with a light puff of wind. When they were in desperate need of help, instead of being made strong in complete patience through faith, they caved to the world and swiftly abandon faith.
Both examples, though seemingly different, are more similar than what meets the eye. The first is of a man who knows that he deserves to go to Hell but knows not that the grace of Jesus Christ overcomes all sin. The second is an example of those whose faith fades the moment it is put to the test. What they both lack is the peace of knowing that the Lord is our helper. What they both lack is not faith per se, but high quality faith. The faith of the first does not trust the complete forgiveness of sins which comes from Jesus Christ. The faith of the second does not trust the rock of Christ of which they stand on. Both have a picture of what the Catholic faith looks like, but their pictures are but a fragment of what true trust in the Lord looks like.
When the Lord extents His hand to these two examples asking, “Do you trust me?” both, though they do want to trust, do not grab on to the hand.
There will always be opportunity to test our faith. We shouldn’t will it, nor does God the Father will it, but that does not mean that it doesn’t happen. So long as there is sin and the world is subject to Satan, then our faith will be tested. Sometimes it’s our own demons that haunt us at night and causes our hearts to ache in agony. Sometimes it’s our friends and family, used by the Devil, who cause us to squirm as our own faith in the Lord above is being used against us. Sometimes we tempt ourselves, sometimes it’s the world, and sometimes it’s the Devil himself. Either way, there will be plenty of opportunity to test our faith.
Now, when you are thrust into the furnace and the heat is kicked up to new heights what then will happen? Will the fire to you be purifying or will it be putrid? Will you come out with all impurities burned out or will you come out of the flames burnt? Will you overcome the Devil or will you wither away? The difference between the outcomes start with one question. Did you lift up your eyes to the Lord for help?
Know this, the Lord your God is a present help. He does indeed listen to your prayers. And He desires only the best for you. The Father does not want to see His children in pain; in fact it troubles Him greatly to see us suffer. Though there is a Hell that does not mean He desire us to go to Hell; no, for He has always desired us to live eternally without sin. So if you in faith look up to the Lord for help will he tarry?
When in agony, lift up your eyes for help, and know this, the Lord is there. The Lord who made heaven and earth is indeed your help and nothing can prevent the Lord from protecting and
preserving you if you allow Him to. If you place your faith in He who is so powerful that He is the creator of everything, do you think anything would have the ability to block His aid? And if you look to the Lord for help in a righteous manner do you think the Lord will turn a blind eye?
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will not turn a blind eye nor will anything get in His way. What does Scripture say? Ask and it shall be given? So too when help is needed, do not give up the faith but turn to the Lord for help.
Yet again, I stress that there will be many opportunities to test out your faith. Therefore, it is of the upmost importance that you continue to have faith. Do not loosen your grip on the Lord, for if you do the Devil will surely snatch you away. Persevere and hold in your heart all of Scripture. Do all that the Lord commanded of you, you who are already saved, and swiftly ask for forgiveness and help when you falter. Use the Word of God and all the training you have received in righteousness to stiffen your spines and grow in wisdom. When evil rears its ugly head, face it without fear for the Lord your God, Jesus Christ, is the Lord of Lords and has already vanquished the gates of Hell.
The Devil is like a shadowy lion who lurks in the darkness always hungry, never satisfied; he is constantly circling you in the outer darkness waiting to pounce. However, the Word of God pains him and causes him to take a step back. When you pray, invoking the name of God, the Devil suffers. He wants you to rely on your own abilities, because against his demonic might, you are powerless. You rely on yourself and the light of God withers away
as the darkness creeps closer to you. As faith in God becomes absent, the ears become itchy, and the teeth of the lion get ever closer. Eventually, he gets you, and the faith you once had vanishes. The Devil has won yet another victim.
However, even the tiniest spark terrifies the Devil. One small flame of hope buffets the lion with fear as the might of the Lord reigns supreme. He who goes to church regularly, who takes communion as often as he or she can, who prays daily, whose faith endures long suffering while being spiritually sober-minded – the Devil will never overcome. Not on account of the works done by these, but because of the patient faith they have which is strengthened by prayer, communion, and worship. He who does not go to church, the devilish lion creeps closer. He who does not take in the Body and Blood of our Savior, the devilish lion creeps closer. He who does not pray, invoking the Name of the Lord which Satan fears above all else, the devilish lion creeps closer. But He whose faith is strengthened in prayer, worship, and communion, the Devil will never overcome.
So do not turn your hearts away from the Lord. Do not allow itchy ears to guide you to politically-correct-but-oh-so-biblically incorrect preachers. Do not be guided by passion. Let myths remain myths. Suffer the consequences of being a religiously conservative Christian, knowing that no amount of suffering will ever separate you from God. Let the Word guide your tongue as you courageously preach the Good News most especially to those who will hate you for doing such. Always be ready to have your faith be put to the test. Be willing to reprove, rebuke, and
exhort those who sin, for their own sake. Do all of this and know that the Lord will be with you during every step.
And if it seems that any one of these steps might sound difficult don’t turn tail and run away. It’s going to be okay. Do not lose heart; maintain your trust in Jesus and pray. Pray for help. Pray for courage. Pray for healing. Pray for discipline. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for the words that your stumbling tongue has trouble uttering. Pray that no amount of political manipulation will cause you to believe in unbiblical lunacy. Pray for patience. Pray for an at ease mind that never seeks worldly pleasure. Pray for stability. Pray.
And if you believe you are not being heard, do you stop praying? No, keep praying. Keep asking for help. You may not get what you want, but that does not mean that the Lord God does not want to help you. Regardless, still pray. For the Lord does hear you and will give justice speedily.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness we cannot overcome the Devil, so when he attacks us we pray for your defense. Shine your face upon us when we lift our eyes in agony so that we don’t need to search long for help. Strengthen our trust in you so that we look toward you for help. And remind us that though we can’t overcome the Devil, you have already overcome him. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 10/23/22 "Increase our Faith" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
2 Timothy 1:3-14
St. Luke 17:1-10
“Increase our Faith”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Next week we will read from Jeremiah 31, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Basically, God is saying that he will forgive and forget our sins. Now, all too often I hear people, usually people who think they are legitimate pastors, rail against the concept of forgive and forget. They would boldly claim that, “nothing in the Bible supports such a belief.” Nothing? What about this passage in Jeremiah? Oh, that’s the Old Testament; what I meant is that it’s nowhere in the New Testament. Hebrews 8. Wait, what? Literally, the entirety of Hebrews 8 is about how the new covenant created through the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Savior fulfills Jeremiah 31. For when Jesus died on the cross He took on our sins thus providing for us a new covenantal promise that so long as we have faith in Him then no longer will our sinfulness lock us out of Heaven because Jesus took on all of that sin. Therefore, if Jesus takes on our sins then why would God the Father still need to remember our sin? He forgets our sin because the sin was already taken away from us through His Son.
Now even when I point out that Forgive and Forget is indeed in the Bible for this is exactly what God does for us through the cross, I will then receive a counter about how it’s impossible for humans to truly forget. And you know what? I agree. It is indeed impossible for fallen humans to truly forgive which is to forget the sins of our enemies because under original sin we are completely corrupted by sin and at birth are incapable of doing anything remotely good for every part of our very being has been influenced by sinfulness. It is not within our fallen human nature to forgive our enemies, but it is in God’s nature to forgive and forget our sins.
It is for this very reason that we look towards the Lord for help, that we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” If left to our own devices we will never truly forgive, i.e. forget, the sins of others but instead hold on to them. But through the help of the external Holy Spirit, which enters into us and provides us with the tools we prior were incapable of using – tools such as faith, hope, and love – we, not by our own spirit but by the Holy Spirit alone, can also say, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
So these supposed pastors get it half right. You are correct, it is impossible for you a sinner to forgive and forget, but through the help of God all things are possible including this.
Now the world does not make it easy. That much is most certainly true. The world is filled with sin and those who wish to attack the church. And if your enemies don’t sin against you, your brothers and sisters in Christ will, for though they are saints, through the power of Christ, they are still sinners. The world cries at us “Violence!” and they cause destruction and strife and contention to arise. Most especially, the world will direct these towards the Church, intentionally causing iniquity towards us simply because of our faith. The law is paralyzed as crime against the Church increase; justice is nowhere to be found. If anything, the law and justice becomes perverted so that it no longer is what it us to be and the enemies abuse this to surround us with their wickedness. The pure Gospel is preached and hymns are sung as death rains on those who kneel to the Lord God alone. The wicked state turns a blind eye to the atrocities as they shamefully act alongside the perpetrators, harassing the Church which dares to violate the unjust laws compelling sinful conduct.
The Church will not stay silent! We will preach the Good News. We will stand for the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for all people from conception to grave; vigorously defending the 4th and 5th Commandment. We will stand in favor of traditional marriage; vigorously defending the 6th and 10th Commandment. We will stand against the lies directed against the Church; vigorously defending the 8th Commandment. We will stand for protecting private property; vigorously defending the 7th and 9th Commandment. We will go to Church no matter who commands us otherwise; vigorously defending the 3rd Commandment. And we will confess that our faith is found only in the Triune God and no voice will ever trump His for we are first subjects of His Holy Kingdom; vigorously defending the 1st and 2nd Commandment.
We will not be ashamed of our faith, yet the world which throws perverted justice at us will wish us to be so. Whenever you preach the Bible pure and unfiltered, the world will try and make you feel some sort of guilt or shame. They want you to feel uncomfortable and will use any arsenal they have, to include your own kin, to twist the one and only Truth into a knot. Your career, your teachers and education, your politics, your friends and family, your financial stability, etc. will all be used against you to turn you away from your faith.
2 Timothy says in response, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace”. Endure the suffering. Do not give in to it, nor allow it to cause you to walk away from the faith. The world will want you to feel ashamed of your faith, so be it. My Lord is bigger than any insult they throw at me. The world will remind you countless times that you are a sinner and do not deserve heaven, so be it. My Lord saved me not on account of my works but solely on account of His grace. If I am to suffer on account of my faith, and I have, then so be it, but I will never be ashamed of the Word of God which saved me!
So what do I do when faced with this overwhelming attack? What I shouldn’t do is respond in kind; to sin against those who sin against me. For it is true that two wrongs do not make a right; therefore when a sin is committed against you that does not give you the liberty to commit a sin. You may feel obligated or even justified to sin against your enemies, but a sin is still a sin and no matter what evils the world throws our way we should never fling evil back. The Devil wants you to sin and will give you every opportunity to do so. Because we are still sinners and not immune to temptation, the world will surely continue to vex us and give us occasion to impatience, anger, vengeance, and such. We have all the opportunity and perceived right to respond with evil in our heart, but we should not.
The other temptation is apathy. When people commit sin, the world wants us to ignore the sinfulness or even excuse it. The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he does not exist. Apathy turns a blind eye to sin, but in such a way that the sin flourishes. So we shouldn’t ignore sinfulness either. The best option is to rebuke when sin is committed, but guarantee forgiveness in response to repentance. You rebuke, which is not a sin, to help them realize that they did commit a sin. The intent of your rebuke is to lead your brother towards repentance; in the same way the Law was given to us by God to reveal to us our sins and then direct us to Christ. And make it known that you will never withhold forgiveness to your brother if they repent. The end goal is forgiveness, but how would one want to be forgiven if they do not first repent, and how would one repent if they do not know that they should repent. Therefore you rebuke, so that you may eventually also forgive. All this is a reflection of what God does for us. God rebukes us through the Law, but he also forgives us through the Gospel if we but just turn to Christ. We turn to Christ for forgiveness because we know we need forgiveness which was revealed to us through the Law.
Now how often should we forgive? Every time someone repents. But what if I know they are going to come to me an hour later for the exact same sin? Did they repent? If so, you still forgive. Christ does the same thing for us. We come to him with a repentant heart, and sometimes in the same day we come to him a second time for committing the same sin again. He still forgives us. And we in like manner, with the help of God should do so to our neighbors, which include our enemies.
I understand the difficulty of this task: forgiving an enemy, even forgetting their sins. I have been ruthlessly attacked by a group of people, and there is anger in my heart. They have given me every opportunity to respond in kind, and I would feel justified. I have trouble forgetting the sin they committed against me even though I must remind myself that I have already told them that I’ve forgiven them. I am tormented not because of the sin they committed against me but because of my insistence to remember their sins. It keeps me up at night and makes me ill. So I understand the difficulty of truly forgiving and forgetting. But I will not give up. I ask that the Lord strengthens me and provides me with His Spirit so that I don’t act according to my own will but His will alone.
I pray the same for you: that when sin is committed against you and they repent that you not only forgive but also forget; that the Lord God gives you the ability to do so. Do not be warped by the sins of the world, but instead, with the help of God, stand strong in the faith while overcoming their shameful suffering. Do this and the great reward in Heaven will be revealed to you as proof of your reverent perseverance. Amen.