Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Psalm 95:6-11

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.

Amos 6: 1-7 

Psalm 146 

1 Timothy 6: 6-16 

St. Luke 16: 19-31 

"Gluttony" 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

Multiple times throughout Israel’s history the stiff necked  people would waver back and forth between truly worshipping  God and using God to support their own demonic beliefs. They had amazing good kings who were devout and faithful rulers such  as King David, but they also had incredibly evil rulers, the most  evil, I would say, would be the witch called Jezebel. This is the  history of Israel, for its name sake is “Wrestle with God,” and this  is exactly what they have done throughout all of history. 

In our first lesson, Israel is once again having a fit with God.  For you see Amos, a simple shepherd though not a prophet, has  been given the task of providing a divine message to Israel. You  see, Israel was at that time flourishing with a vibrant economy.  The country was rich beyond belief, and its government was  incredibly stable. They as well as the southern kingdom, Judah,  were blessed, though not by God. For you see, Israel had turned  away from God and was persecuting Jews and had raised for  themselves their own golden calf. Yet despite their persecution  and downright evil practices, they convinced themselves into  believing that their good fortune and wealth was a sign that God  was blessing them and encouraging their bad conduct. 

As Israel prospered in their decadence they drowned  themselves in gluttonous drunkenness, filling their bellies with  new wine and fattened lambs, laughing the whole time as they 

knowingly allowed, even encouraged, the tribes that descended  from the line of Joseph to burn. The very people who enjoyed the  prosperity of their gluttonous behaviors did so because they were  obtaining their wealth by oppressing the Jewish tribes that dared  stand up to the atrocities of the ungodly. The people of God who  stood up for the Lord were soundly oppressed as they were not  accepting of the extravagant golden calf, and through their  oppression the ones who lauded the calf grew rich and powerful. 

Thus, it is safe to say, God was not blessing these evil  elitists who stuffed their faces with the misery of faithful citizens.  No, God cursed them. Why in the world would God bless anyone  

who breached the divine covenant contracted between Him and  His people? There is no contract, for if one party breaks the  agreement then there is no agreement that the other party must follow. Israel breached its agreement with God and had to suffer  the consequences. 

Yet, the filth that ruled over Israel had the brazened idea that  they, they who persecuted the people of God, were favored by  God. What twisted mental gymnastics do you have to go through  to believe that God is going to bless you when you cause  destruction and persecution on those who have sound faith in Him  alone? Again, the reason why Israel was stable and flourishing  was because they scapegoated and were putting to ruin the tribes  of Joseph. There was no grievance, pain, guilt, or shame in their  hearts; only anger and malicious glee as they tortured God’s truly  faithful. 

In their minds, the wealth they possess was all the proof they  needed to believe that they were blessed by God; such an evil  and atrocious belief that comes out of the camps of demons! Yes,  it is true that God blesses and through His blessing some become 

prosperous. However, this does not mean that being prosperous  is guaranteed proof that God is blessing you, for what if you  personally obtained your wealth through ill-gain and then use it to  continue practicing evil? God does bless some with wealth, but  not all wealth comes from God. 

Now, I don’t know if the Israelites whom Amos was  addressing actually believed their nonsense, but, looking at the  Americans today who actually and truly believe the blasphemous  teaching that God supports the LBGT agenda and murdering  unborn children, I can understand how some malicious Israelites  have convinced themselves otherwise. Regardless, it is obvious  that the Judaic community did not learn its lesson. You would  think that after God punished all of Israel and Judah that this  nasty belief that prosperity was proof of God’s blessing would  have been washed from the psyche of the generations that  followed. Wrong. Instead it persisted and grew in power as the  belief started to infect the Judaic camps of the chief elders and  nobler society. 

Love of money persisted, and even twisted the theology of  the times, to the point that scripture was flipped on its head as  many started to once again belief that the richer you were the  more likely you would enter into heaven. This was a nasty belief  that Jesus had to counter, and as such a belief would naturally  lead people away from His saving grace. For if people actually  believed that their wealth was a measure of how saved they were  then such behavior would lead people towards working their way  into heaven as they amass for themselves gluttonously more and  more. Eventually people would either walk away in misery due to  their perceived or actual poverty or they would persecute and  steal from each other all in the game of monopolizing wealth. 

Neither is safe. It all boils down to this - you cannot save yourself  into heaven, only Jesus Christ can save you. 

This was the lesson Jesus was trying to tell everyone, but to  many, in order to reach this goal, Jesus had to first dismantle the  nauseous beliefs surrounding prosperity. Our parable is one of  many lessons Jesus gave to tear down the mansion of self gratifying salvation. Imagine a table filled with luscious food, a fat, rich man gluttonously filling his belly with food, and a paper-thin  poor man under the table picking up crumbs to eat. If one was to  go to heaven and one to hell who would go up and who would go  down? This was a challenging picture for prosperity because  whereas the rich man should obviously go to Heaven on account  of his riches, again their belief; this picture did not sit well with  them, and it shouldn’t. The answer did not come easily to them,  so Jesus spelled it out and explained why Lazarus was in Heaven  and why the rich man was burning in Hell. 

Again, multiple times Jesus provided parable after parable  and lesson after lesson imploring that the cultural attitude  regarding salvation through wealth was all wrong and that no  amount of selfish self-gratification will ever win you the keys to  Heaven, but that faith alone in Jesus Christ and His merciful  sacrifice through the cross is the only way into heaven. 

Now, today it may seem crazy to believe that people could  save themselves by amassing wealth or to believe that the  amount of wealth they possess directly correlates with the  strength of their faith, but there are a multitude of false prophets  out there in America alone who have created mega churches that  preach this very blasphemous teaching. Oh how I feel sorry for  the little sheep of God’s flock who attends these churches and do 

not know that their wolf-in-sheep-clothing conmen of a pastor are  leading them down a dangerous road known as prosperity gospel. Among Lutheran pastors alike, even ELCA pastors, we are  united against these charismatic preachers, calling them out as  blasphemous false preachers, while instructing in our seminaries  that these are the type of pastors we do not want. Famous  examples of Prosperity Gospel pastors who actually teach works  alone through wealth and disparage the minds of worshippers by  telling the masses that if someone suffers of lack then that is  proof that his or her faith is not strong enough includes Joel  Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, etc. I don’t even dare  call them pastors, but they are definitely demons wearing human  skin. On top of preaching that prosperity is proof of one’s  salvation, they all also preach indulgence, though an even more  wicked version of indulgence commonly acknowledged of the  Renaissance Era. Their form of indulgence is that if someone is financially struggling, which is proof of one’s faith, then if he or  she gives indulgence personally to the preacher then his or her faith will be strengthened and through such wealth will increase.  This is why these demonic preachers are also conmen. Now, whereas I am not a fan of using Wikipedia, I do have to  say that its title description of Prosperity Gospel Theology is  accurate. They state that Prosperity Theology is the belief that  “financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of  God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to  religious causes will increase one's material wealth. Material and  especially financial success is seen as a sign of divine favor.” What difference is there between the belief of the Israeli who  persecuted the Jews during the times of Amos, the beliefs of the 

common prosperity Jew during the times of Jesus, and these  prosperity gospel preachers? I see none. 

The problem they all face is that they are gluttonous and  suffer from love of money, and due to their sinful tendencies they  have fallen into the temptation of altering scripture to fit their own  voracious agenda. Do they not understand that salvation is only  found through Jesus Christ and on account of nothing we do but  wholly on account of everything Jesus has already done, so long  as have faith which is provided for us only through the Holy Spirit,  that we are most definitely saved? The poor who believe are just  as equally saved as the rich who believe. The amount of wealth  and how well accomplished is meaningless with regards to one’s  salvation. To think such is complete vanity. In fact, the one who  hates wealth and is thus not personally tied down by it but instead  selflessly looks out for the needs of others is more likely to be  saved than he who loves wealth. 

In the end, beware the ravenous gullet of gluttony and all its  malicious temptations. Instead, worship the fact that Jesus Christ  died on the cross for all people, asking for faith alone. And know  this, compared to the absolute richest person who has walked the  earth, not even they can pale in comparison to the endless joy  and happiness and true wealth of those in Heaven possess. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, give us hearts that focuses not on  our own financial state, whether fortunate or otherwise, but looks  upon you above alone. In your heavenly name we pray: Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Exodus 32: 7-14 

Psalm 51: 1-18 

1 Timothy 1: 12-17 

St. Luke 15: 1-10 

“Humble Salvation” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

I’m a huge fan of ministers who go to the darkest corners of  the world and provide their entire ministry to those who live in  these less-than-favorable junctions. That includes pastors who  preach the untainted pure good news to prisoners, addicts, those  on death row, the homeless, and even the most tainted and  demonic of areas such as outside Planned Parenthood and pro pedophilia draw shows. We need Christians preaching the Good  News in these areas so that hope, joy, and the forgiveness of sins  is provided. Yes, even the mass murderer who works at Planned  Parenthood can be forgiven of his or her sins and receive the  Salvation that comes only through faith in Christ. How would  anyone know if no one went to them and preached the pure  Scripture that life begins at conception and automatically have  intrinsic value according to Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 9:6, Exodus  20:13, Exodus 23:7, Exodus 21:22-23 (which states that a man  must be put to death if he caused a child in a pregnant women to  die), Deuteronomy 30:19, Job 10:11-12, Job 31:15, Job 33:4,  Psalm 22:10, Psalm 100:3, Psalm 119:73, Psalm 127:3-5, Psalm  139:13-16, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:9-11, Isaiah 59:1-5, Isaiah  64:8, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:41-44, 1 Corinthians 1:27,  Galatians 1:15, etc.? My personal favorite is from today’s psalm,  Psalm 51:5, “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother  conceived me.”

At the same time, how would these people know that despite  their sins, Jesus Christ still died on the cross to forgive them of  their sins, in fact he died specifically for us? How would they know  if no one tells them? 

This is why on the flip side I have anger in my heart towards  pastors who stick their noses up at those whose souls are too  unclean for them. They come to find out that a parishioner  committed a sin and decide to abandon said person in their sin, to  let them wander aimlessly in their outer darkness. They avoid bad  areas in the neighborhood that have the rough crowds. They hang  out with the rich, clean, and upright, but to the poor and dirty and  down-to-earth they treat them like scum and provide no  opportunity of repentance. They abandon the ones who are in the most need of Christ in their lives, and thus prove themselves to be  the scummiest of scums. I would say to such people, hang out  with enlisted soldiers, people who swear every other word and  spit dip at the most awkward of times and drink booze during  down time; that would bring down their haughty barriers fast. 

Do they not know that when Jesus came to earth He came  for the unclean, not the clean. Jesus came to save the broken, not  the all-ready whole. He came for the imperfect, not the perfect. He  came for those who are filthy, not the pure. He came for sinners,  not saints. When He came he intentionally hanged out with the  outcasts and the worse of civilization. He did so because they  were willing to listen and be forgiven. He hanged out with tax  collectors and sinners. He preached to thieves and prostitutes. He  was willing to forgive murderers and rapists. He was even willing 

to preach and forgive the worst of society - the Pharisees and  their scribes. 

The reason is simple, Jesus came to save. What need is  there to find a person who is already at home? Why would I clean  a rag that is already perfectly clean? What’s the point in putting a  bandage or taking medicine when you have no injuries or are not  sick? Why save someone who does not need to be saved? 

Christ’s entire ministry was for the lost, the poor in soul, the  blind, the deaf, the unclean, and the wretched. He didn’t come  here to lift up those who will already enter Heaven. He came for  those who are unable to enter Heaven. He came and died on the  cross for those whose sins prevent them from entering the  Kingdom of God. Through the cross He takes on these very sins  so that we may be spotless when the time comes. His death was  our atoning sacrifice, for as long as we have faith in Him, then no  matter what happens we will go into heaven. Jesus Christ  humbled Himself to provide Salvation not to saints but to sinners. 

So when the haughty Pharisees and scribes lifted up their  noses at Jesus, grumbling, “This man receives sinners and eats  with them,” they intended that to be an insult. Have they not read  Scripture? If they have then are they not idiots? Do they not know  that within the Laws of Moses that the means for forgiveness  through various offerings are provided. Do they not have the  humility to realize they themselves are sinners? Do they claim to  be better than King David who sings in Psalm 51:2, “Wash me  thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin”? Have  they conveniently glossed over all the multitude of Scripture that 

points to the promise of salvation? The arrogance of these foolish  clowns! Are they not lost on the sheer irony of their own words?  For according to chapter 14:1, this interaction is happening within  the house of a ruler of the Pharisees who also had lawyers,  scribes, and lesser Pharisees invited as guests. The words of the  grumblers again was, “This man receives sinners and eats with  them,” yet at that very moment, though the tax collectors and  sinners were approaching the home of the Pharisees to hear the  words of Jesus, the ones Jesus was entertaining and eating with  were the very Pharisees who uttered this nonsense. 

When the Pharisees grumbled that Jesus eats with sinners,  who was He eating with at that very moment? The Pharisees; oh,  the irony! What they say is still true, for all except for Jesus have  sinned. 

Now Jesus’ response to this arrogance was to provide a  number of Parables. We read two today, and after said two, Jesus, in Chapter 16, provides some more parables only to end  with the Pharisees openly ridiculing Jesus in front of His disciples  and all the sinners outside listening. What was Jesus’ response?  “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows  your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in  the sight of God.” 

Jesus came to save all people because all have sinned,  most especially the Pharisees, but how can Jesus save the  Pharisees if they keep on pushing Him away in favor of self justification? He who justifies himself before God using earthly  exaltation will never be saved because they don’t want to be 

saved. Jesus wants to save the Pharisees, why do you think he  spent three chapters in the book of St Luke giving parable after  parable to them specifically? He’s trying to open their eyes to the  reality that they can’t save themselves. Jesus, who is the good  shepherd, has come to find those who are lost sheep to save  them. Jesus, who is the most pure and righteous, who is God  incarnate, humbled Himself through the most humbling of means,  martyrdom, so that through Him we, who are all lost sheep, will be  saved. 

Jesus is the good shepherd who abandons his 99 good  sheep who are saved to search far and wide through thick and  thin to find one sheep that is lost and confused. He does not stop  looking for the sheep because he knows that the others are safe,  but that this one little sheep is in dire need of being found. Does  the shepherd gather his friends and rejoice over the 99 that are  already found? No! He gathers them for the one that was lost but  is now found. The same applies to Christ, for all of Heaven  rejoices when one sinner repents. All the angels and archangels,  seraphim and cherubim, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy  Spirit, and all the company of saints in Heaven rejoice with a  fanfare of trumpets and loud cheer and endless feasts for one  sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ. Their rejoice is more  rambunctious and filled with mirth over one sinner who is saved  than 99 who are already saved. In fact, there is more joy in  Heaven over one sinner who repents then a thousand who need  no repentance, even a million! 

Again, you see, Jesus did not humble himself for those who  are already saved or claim they are saved through their own 

works. Jesus died to save those who can’t save themselves. The  same applies to justification, which is but another word for saved  in this context. Jesus did not come to justify those who claim to  already be justified or who are justifying themselves through  worldly means. Jesus came to justify those who are unjust. 

Additionally, before any Christian boldly proclaims that he or  she is not as sinful as Lutherans traditionally make every fallen  human to be, a question - who do you believe was the greatest  Christian? Of all Christians, who deserves most to be at Jesus’  right hand? I would boldly wager St Paul, yet pay attention to his  words in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving  of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save  sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul was so humble that he,  multiple times, claimed to be the Chief of Sinners. Paul is saved because he had the humility to accept Jesus Christ not only as  God but also as His Savior. 

And to those who do likewise, who boldly claim that they are  sinners but even more boldly claim that they have faith in Jesus  Christ our Savior and Lord, to you I say, with 100% confidence, I  don’t care what your background is or what you’ve done in your  life, you are saved! 

 

Praise be to God! Amen.

Amos 8: 4-7 

Psalm 113 

1 Timothy 2: 1-8 

St. Luke 16: 1-17 

“Citizenship” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

In the past I have been asked multiple times, with regards to  voting, “Who should I vote for?” Even by members of this  congregation. Now whereas it is easy for me to answer that  question, and even more easy as a pastor of a strong religiously  conservative denomination, to do so behind the pulpit is much  more difficult. Yet across the nation, many pastors have decided, myself included, to preach on what it means to be an American  Citizen as a Christian. What are we obligated to do, and what  does our faith says with regards to voting. So, in like manner, I too  will provide a sermon on citizenship. But first, a legal caveat. 

Supposedly, according to the law, I am not allowed to tell  you behind the pulpit who to vote for and which party to vote for. I  say supposedly because there is no such stipulation, but in recent  past many pastors and congregations who lean particularly in one  certain direction have been attacked by the IRS. So I will not,  behind the pulpit at least, provide a sermon on who to vote for,  but rather preach on the importance of voting as Christians and  then imploring that you vote on good and legitimate Christian  values, as oppose to those fake Christian values that are not  supported anywhere in the Bible. I will do this by using Scripture,  the Book of Concord, and official statements of the NALC.

Regarding Government, what does Scripture say? The two  most important Scriptures we should read from regarding  government are from Romans 13 and Acts 5. The first says, “Let  every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is  no authority except from God, and those that exist have been  instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities  resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur  judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do  what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's  servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does  not bear the sword in vain.” The latter, “We must obey God rather  than men.” What does this mean? Quite simply that we are to  obey God first and foremost and that as Christians we are to obey  government in so far Government also obeys God. Basically,  because government is a gift to us by God himself, we are to  obey government because their authority stems from God.  However, if we are forced to choose obedience to government or  God then we must disobey government because the only reason  why we obey government is because we first obey God. 

The concept I just described can be best interpreted as  such: we are first and foremost Christians and secondly  Americans; our primary citizenship is to the Heavenly Kingdom of  God and our American citizenship compared to such is but  secondary. Many times through the Psalms this is expressed, as  King David lauds God above all nations. Psalm 22: 27-28, “All the  ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the  families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship  belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Psalm 47: 8, 

“God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” And  from today’s Psalm, Psalm 113: 4, “The Lord is high above all  nations, and his glory above the heavens!” Thus, in all that we do  as Americans, to include vote, we do so first as a subject of God’s  Kingdom. 

Within our Book of Concord, particularly the Augsburg  Confession Article 16: Of Civil Government, all this gets neatly  tied together. It reads, “Concerning public order and secular  government it is taught that all political authority, orderly  government, laws, and good order in the world are created and  instituted by God and that Christians may without sin exercise  political authority; be princes and judges; pass sentences and  administer justice according to imperial and other existing laws;  punish evildoers with the sword; wage just wars; serve as  soldiers; buy and sell; take required oaths; possess property; be  married; etc. Condemned here are the Anabaptists who teach that  none of the things indicated above are Christian. Also condemned  are those who teach that Christian perfection means physically  leaving house and home, spouse and child, and refraining from  the above-mentioned activities. In fact, the only true perfection is  true fear of God and true faith in God. For the Gospel teaches an  internal, eternal reality and righteousness of the heart, not an  external, temporal one. The Gospel does not overthrow secular  government, public order, and marriage but instead intends that a  person keep all this as a true order of God and demonstrate in  these walks of life Christian love and true good works according  to each person’s calling. Christians, therefore, are obliged to be  subject to political authority and to obey its commands and laws in  all that may be done without sin, but if a command of the political 

authority cannot be followed without sin, one must obey God  rather than any human being (Acts 5:29).” 

Therefore it is perfectly alright for Christians, who are first  and foremost Christians, to serve in government and to vote. By  doing so the relationship between Church and Government, and  in effect their obligations with regards to each other, are fulfilled.  For as Lutherans, we identify three holy estates ordained by God:  Family, Government, and Church. The family’s sole duty with  regards to the other two is to be the foundation of which good  citizens and Christians are raised. The sole duty of government  with regards to other two is to be the physical protectors. This  means government exists to use the power of the sword to protect  and preserve the Church of God. And as for the church, its sole  duty with regards to the other two is to keep them holy. By  preaching the Good News and letting Christian values influence  government then we are fulfilling our Christian duty of maintaining  government as one of the holy estates. 

That’s the key, and the reason why we vote and get involved  in politics: to make sure politics is always downstream of religion.  We all know that due to original sin, without the help of God we  are all helpless at performing even one singular good though or  deed. We are all born completely corrupt and enslaved to Satan’s  domain of sinfulness. Every pore of our very being is infected with  this invasive disease known as original sin. We cannot save  ourselves, and if we hope to do anything remotely good then we  need the help of God which is indeed already provided for through  our Savior Jesus Christ who died on the cross to forgive us our  sins and lead us toward a life of holiness. Now if government is 

made up of men and laws are created by men, then would that  not also imply that our completely corruption under sin would  influence government? Correct! For because of original sin even  government is completely corrupted and subject to Satan. This is  why we preach multiple times about how the world hates Christ;  for this is because, without the help of God and the salvation  found in Christ, government is helplessly a victim of the Devil’s  demonic schemes. Therefore, as the Church, for the sake of  government, should we not ought to do everything in our power to  allow God to influence our nation more so than the Devil? For if  we don’t then we as a nation will ultimate start exalting and  protecting man-made abominations, and in fact we already are. 

This is why we pray for our leaders and ask God to bless our  nation. We pray not because we agree with the agenda of our  leaders, but that God’s agenda is ultimately accomplished. We  ask God to bless this nation because without His help we will  degrade into wickedness. This is also why we as a whole vote,  participate in government, serve as judges, etc. with our Christian  faith always on our sleeves. Our faith always comes first. 

In addition, this is also why within the Solid Declaration of  the Formula of Concord, the defining document of what it means  to be an Orthodox Lutheran, the following are listed as heresies.  Again, the follow statements are heretical and we do not abide by them: That governmental service is not a God-pleasing walk of life  in the New Testament; That a Christian cannot hold an office in  government with a good, clear conscience; That Christians may  not with a clear conscience exercise their governmental office against the wicked in appropriate situations, nor may Christian 

subjects of the government appeal to its power; that Christians  may not with good conscience swear an oath in court or pay  feudal homage to their prince or lord with an oath; That  governmental authority may not with a clear conscience impose  capital punishment upon criminals; That a Christian may not with  a good conscience own or possess private property, but rather is  bound to surrender all to the community (Socialism is officially  labeled a heresy in Lutheranism). 

Now some may falsely claim what about Separation of  Church and State? To that I say no such thing exists in America,  and if it did then we are compelled as Lutherans to disobey such  nonsense. If there is a separation it is a separation of duties and  not of relationship. The Church and the State have two separate  

list of obligations given by God, the two do not act as the other,  but the two do relate to each other. The State protects the  Church, and the Church influences the State. 

What does this influencing the state looks like? First and  foremost, the ultimate influencer is God. Therefore, of all things the most important thing we can ever vote upon is letting God be  more present everywhere, aka lifting up radically so Religious  Freedom. There is a reason why it is the first freedom in the Bill of  Rights; because our first speaker of the house, a Lutheran pastor,  Rev. Frederick Muhlenberg, understood this to be the most  important freedom in America. For all our founding fathers  understood that without God, this great experiment called  America will fail. Thus we vote in favor of radically capitalizing on  our freedom to follow the Great Commission in every corner of  our life. We are to preach, teach, and baptize in the name of the 

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to all nations. And if this is our chief  goal – to defend religious freedom and our right to preach the  Good News everywhere without fear of governmental punishment  – then we need to be honest with ourselves. Who is more likely to  punish Christians? Be honest when you vote, ask, between all the  candidates who has the highest likelihood to rigorously defend  your right to preach about your orthodox faith in all walks of your  life? Also ask, who has the higher likelihood of punishing, or  supporting punishment from other sources, Christians who  outwardly act upon their faith? I don’t care about a candidate’s  conduct, only their policies. Ask yourself, if given the authority  who would use everything in their power, using the force of  government, to shut down this church and throw me in jail vs  protect and preserve this church? Be honest with yourself! As for  me, the answer is obvious. 

As for our other Christian values, do not be swayed by the  political manipulations of the Christophobic crowd. If a Christian  value was never politicized in the past but is now that is due to  political manipulators who wish to terrify churches into silence, so  that good non-political Christian messages are never spoken out  of fear of opposing a particular recent political stance that only  one party stands up, in an extremist manner, for. If we the church  was to allow the world to silence us out of fear of being falsely  labeled of being political then we will inevitably act in the same  manner as those Christians in Nazi Germany who never dared  spoke up against the atrocities of the then current administration  out of fear of politicizing the Church.

Now the Christian values that the NALC stands up for that  are not political, and of which all good Christians vote for,  includes: protecting the innocent lives of all human beings from  conception to grave; fighting against the LBGT and their entire  demonic agenda; and lifting up religious freedom. And if you don’t  believe me that these are official stances of the NALC, I have  documents in the Narthex prepared to prove my case. 

In the end, what are we to do as Christians? First, we must  deny our sinful tendencies to follow worldly desires and instead  deny ourselves in humble service towards God. Next, we should  learn to fear God more than fearing Man, for true wisdom is not  found in mankind but in the fear of the Lord alone. And last, now  that we have submitted ourselves to God and not to demonic  political stances, we vote and promote policies in line with our faith while we also pray for the Lord’s blessing to guide us. I hope  that satisfies some of the questions many have had regarding  how we who are first Citizens of God’s Kingdom function as also  citizens of America. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, you are the King of Kings and all  authority and nations bow down to you. No one is higher than you  and deserves more respect than you. Help us to serve you with  our whole heart, mind, soul, and body so that we can better serve  our neighbors. Help us remember that though we are citizens of  America, we are even more so citizens of your heavenly kingdom.  In your holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 9: 8-12 

Psalm 10: 12-18 

Philemon 1-21 

St. Luke 14: 25-33 

“Humble Wisdom” 

Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen. 

Many of you grew up with parents that were strict and could  be scary when needed. Some of you may have been that kind of  parent. When I was a child, my mother was definitely one of those  firm parents who spanked and grounded and made sure I was punished whenever necessary. She was fierce and protective, but  she expected high things from her children and raised us to  respect authority, to understand consequences, and to trust her  judgement. She was a good mother, and because she was good  she was strict. She forced her kids to go to church, no if or buts,  we went. She gave warnings and followed through with her  warnings. She was also a huge advocate of providing a healthy  dosage of vitamin “No”. Again, she did all this because she was a  good parent. 

As a child, I grew to respect my mother. Of course I hated it  when I was punished, looking back I know that my punishments  were absolutely necessary, and I’m glad my mother was strict  with me. I loved her, but I also had a healthy level of fear which  prevented me from doing things I should of never done. As a  child, I was taught to honor my parents, but what does it mean to  honor. It means to simply to love and trust but also to fear. When  you obey your parents you do so because you trust their  judgment, because you love them and want to obey them, but 

also because you fear their punishment. The wrath of a parent  should be a scary thing, and it is this fear that puts reigns on the  more mischievous side of children. It is also this fear that teaches  us initially the difference between right and wrong. As babies, we  already got the trust and love part down toward our good parents,  but it is the fear that stops us in our tracks whenever we do  something inappropriate or dangerous. We don’t know that our  actions are such, but we know fear, and it is the fear that teaches  us that the action is a bad action. Thus if we have good parents,  the fear of a parent’s wrath is a blessing. Through it we develop  the wisdom to know what is inappropriate and what is bad. 

For example, say a young child is chasing a ball and the ball  enters a street. Because the young child fears being yelled at  again the child stops instinctively and looks both ways before  chasing the ball. If the child had no fear he would have kept on  chasing the ball because at that moment the ball is more  important, but because the child does have fear, though he may  not understand why as soon as he gets to the road it is almost like  a flip is switched and the boy stops in his tracks to look both  ways. Not getting yelled at again is more important than the ball. 

The same applies to the most good and heavenly, kind and  gentle, of all parents, our good Father in Heaven. As children of  the heavenly kingdom we should both love and fear God the  Father. Now we should not fear that God with act in an evil  manner, for no such thing will ever happen, but rather fear His  righteous judgment. But before we get there, first, is not God the  most loving and good parent ever? Can any parent on earth be  better than God? Can anyone be better than God? No, because 

God isn’t just the best but is the source of all that is good. God is  the definer of what it means to be good, and nothing can take that  away from Him. This is the foundation of every argument we  stand on regarding God: that God is good all the time. We start  there, and then we proceed to have a healthy level of fear toward  God our Heavenly Father, in the same way we should have a  healthy level of fear toward our earthly parents. 

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Job, so let us read Job 28:28, “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that  is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” God tells  us multiple times that all good things come from Him and that  most certainly includes wisdom. Now this is not the wisdom found  in philosophy or sociology or politics or humanities or any other  human-made form of understanding. These are all human  attempts at being wise, but all are foolishness compared to the  wisdom we do receive from God. 

So why is it that true wisdom comes only from fearing God  and this wisdom from the world is but a fake? It all boils down to  sin. For when it comes to understanding the difference between  good and evil and then acting in a way to avoid said evil, it is  

blatantly obvious that without the help of God we never learn our  lesson. We create for ourselves our own version of good and evil,  so we are already failing at the get-go as we lie to ourselves  about reality, but then we fail at following through with our own  made-up system of morality. Then we pick up the fragments and  instead of learning our lesson we try it again.

That’s the thing about wisdom, if you don’t learn your lesson  then you will never grow wise. On top of that, the mark of a truly  wise person is someone who is willing to learn from their mistakes  and listen to a credible source. When it comes to morality, there is  only one credible source, and that is God. This is why we read in  our first lesson, Proverbs 9: 8-9, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he  will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give  instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a  righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” The scoffer is he  who does not fear God. The scoffer is the one who will not listen  to reason regarding the Word of God. The wise one is willing to  acknowledge that as a fallen human he will fail and get things  wrong and is thus willing to be reproved. A wise person is willing  to be reprimanded by scripture, and will grow wiser and more  loving toward God for it. And as for a righteous man, well in this  context a righteous person is a wise person, for a person is made  righteous and wise on account of faith in God which implies trust,  love, and fear. 

This then naturally leads to the next verse, Proverbs 9:10,  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the  knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” As one can tell this is but a  variant to Job 28:28. God is repeating to us in Scripture, putting  extra emphasis on this message by repeating it multiple times  throughout Scripture, this message that He is so dearly trying to  drill home. And what is that lesson? That fearing God is a good  thing and should be desirable in all Christians alongside love in  God for it is through fear in the righteous wrath of God that we  become wise. This is wisdom found in humility. By humbling  ourselves to God, we allow Him to teach us what is good and 

what is evil. It is fear that compels us towards humility, for if we  didn’t fear God than we would naturally show partiality toward His  Word. 

Though we are fallen humans incapable of perfectly  following the Law, we should still attempt to follow the Law and  humbly repent whenever we stumble. We do this not because we  are trying to save ourselves through the Law, but because we  ought to follow the Law. Our love toward God in desiring to follow  Him, and our fear toward God of His displeasure, combined, is  what makes us wise. 

The same applies to the Cross. If you love Christ, but fear  not the consequences of sin, then you will never turn toward the  Cross. For to be saved through faith in Christ is simply this: to  love and fear God so much that you throw your sins on Jesus who  died on the Cross to take on those sins thus providing for you the  means to eternal salvation in Heaven. Jesus Christ died to forgive  you your sins; that is what it means to be saved. Yet, if you fear  not Hell, nor sin, nor the Law then why in the world would you run  to Jesus to be forgiven of that which you don’t care about? The  reason why we turn to Christ is because of our sins. We are so  terrified of the just punishment we deserve that we turn out of love  to the only source of forgiveness. And this is where the beauty of  God’s law fulfilled comes into play, for not only did He out of love  show for us, His children, what is good and evil and the  consequences of such, He also showed us the means of  forgiveness.

And again, I need to stress that word, “forgiveness.” If our  faith in Christ was so centered on loving God but not fearing Him  then though we may turn to Christ we would change His sacrifice  from a means of forgiveness into a means of acceptance. In a  society that loves but does not fear God, we make a mockery of  Jesus’ sacrifice by proclaiming it as a means of allowance toward  sin. In such a society it is alright to sin for Christ already forgave  you of your sin. There is no fear nor respect nor honor to God the  Father in such a society. Murder and rape and lying in court will  be rampant but it would be alright because Christ already forgave  you. Do you now see the necessity of having a healthy level of  fear toward God? Christ didn’t come to abolish the Law, he came  to fulfill it, and therefore the Law still exists. Thus as Christians,  saved by faith alone, we still have an obligation to obey God and  follow all His commandments. 

It is fear that helps us do this, and through such fear we, who  are still children in the eyes of God the father, will grow in wisdom  as we come to understand what is good and what is evil. And as  we fear God, let it be known that God is the most good of all  fathers and will never do any evil toward you, but instead provides  a most gracious means of forgiveness. Thus, allow your fear to  compel you toward that means of grace. 

Let us pray, 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, show us your children the ways of  wisdom and to learn from you and continually grow. In your  heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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