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May 19, 2024 - Acts 2:1-21 (Pentecost Sunday)

Acts 2-1-21
00:00 / 17:55

Grace mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, our Lord and risen savior Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, your helper and comforter. Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, today we celebrate the festival feast of Pentecost. We celebrate on this day the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Some call today the birthday of the Church. Although, we know the church existed long before that… the phrase has stuck, happy birthday church. Someone once said, the church is full of dull but respectable people who gather to listen to a dull but respectable message about how to keep being dull but respectable. It was just a normal Sunday at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, 955 Highway 109. Everyone here was feeling dull… but respectable. The Sermon, I admit, was dull… but respectable. Everyone was looking pretty dull but respectable. Everyone was in there place. The people who get that dazzed look during my sermon, had the dazzed look during my sermon. The people who doze off, had dozed off. The children who wrestle with their parents, were wrestling with their parents. When all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there was a fire. It started over there near the Baptismal font and it moved towards the altar. It began to spread from the pulpit into the congregation. People began to panic. The ushers and elders tried but couldn’t put the fire out. The trustees got a fire extinguishers but it was too late. We were going up in flames. Could that really happen? Oh, it will happen. And let me say that again in case you missed it. Could this church go up in flames? It will happen. That’s the promise… And that’s my prayer, that there will be a fire lit under your feet, a fire lit within you heart and over your head. The embers that began at your Baptism may they be fanned into flames as you hear the Word preached. Because let me be clear, my prayer for you is not that you all might speak in tongs on Pentecost or ever. In Acts Chapter 2, notice that only a few prophesied. The rest of the people, the 3000, heard and believed. So that is my prayer for you today, that you might hear and that you might believe and that you might trust that the Word has become flesh and He has dwelt among us. Believe as Peter said that it was our sin that put him on the cross. Most importantly, though, believe that it was His death and resurrection that conquered our human problem. Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise given to Eve. We still are made partakers of that promise through the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist had said, “I Baptize you with water, but Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Jesus longs to have a church on fire with joy and generosity and faith and hope. Jesus longs to have a church on fire with truth and Gospel grace. Jesus longs to have a church on fire with vision and mission. Jesus longs to have a church that has aquired the fire. Luke who had recorded those words from John the Baptist I preciously quoted. Luke who also wrote the book of Acts, now tells us about the fire in Acts Chapter 2. Pentecost means 50, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. The day began with 120 believers who had gathered together in Jerusalem. And suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a sound like a mighty windstorm. And it filled the house where they were sitting. Then what looked like flames of fire appeared and settled on each of them. The flames of God moved the believers from knowing what happened to experiencing it. Acts 1 vs 3 says they knew Jesus has risen from the dead because He has appeared to them on multiple occasions and He proved to them in many ways that He was alive. So too, we Lutherans know things. We are known for knowing a lot. Our theology, “we’ve nailed it”, literally. We know it. We’ve memorized it… at least amuse me. But seriously, you have been catechized. You have been trained. You are being discipled… taught… you memorized quite a bit. You know a lot. We know about Jesus. We know about prayer. We know about the Holy Spirit. We know about grace. We do know a lot. Here’s the challenge, knowledge is not meant to remain as knowledge, just as something in the head. It needs to grow, mature, progress ultimately into active faith. In other words, knowing who Jesus is and living for Him are two different things. Let me point out to you the language of the Apostles’ Creed. In the Apostles’ Creed we confess, “I believe in the Holy Spirt. The Holy Christian church. The communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” On Pentecost, on the Birthday of the church, the Holy Spirit is invaluable. But I also want to point out, so is the Church. We are not called to become vigilante Christians. The Church is and always will be as far from perfect as everything else in this world, none the less she is Christ’s bride and she’s also your mother. She is, therefore, not yours to abandon. Once again, we, very appropriately, confess in the Apostles Creed, our faith is not just founded in Jesus, but “I also believe in the Holy Christian Church.” Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper and guide, but he also sent me you and you me. I have often said that without you, I’m not worshiping. Before you arrived this morning, I was here practicing in an empty building. That is to say, you are an integral part of the church and its worship. Therefore, may you have regular church attendance and come to Bible study. Heed the warning, if we don’t, we may not have much of a church to return to when you need it. Luckily, today the Holy Spirit wants to move you from the knowing Jesus and the Bible, Acts Chapter 1, to experiencing Jesus and the Bible, Acts Chapter 2. But how does that happen? It all begins in worship through the Word. The people gathered and they heard in their own language the wonderful things God has done. If you are anything like me, you come to worship and you feel down, down cast, down trodden, in a downward spiral. I’m a poor miserable sinner. I’m tired. I’m in need to nourishment. I desire encouragement. And the Holy Spirit comes to lift us up, as we sing together. As we speak responsively, and as we listen and learn, and as we receive the forgiveness of Jesus, and sit next to our brothers and sisters in Christ we are lifted up. The Holy Spirit takes the gifts of Jesus: gifts of freedom and joy and truth and gospel grace and love, and delivers them right into your lives. Gone are the lame excuses. Gone are the luke-warm thoughts. Gone are the blank stares. Boldness and courage, spine and nerve are all gifts of the Spirit. As a byproduct of the Spirit, Peter who was the preacher on Pentecost, Peter stood up and quoted from the Prophet Joel and King David and the Holy Spirit made the words alive in his hearers. It was Pentecost Sunday in a Charlie Brown comic strip. Lucy, and Linus, and Charlie Brown were leaving Sunday school having talked about the Book of Acts Chapter 2. Lucy asked the boys “did the apostle’s hair catch fire as the tongue of fire sat on their heads?” Charlie said, “No, they did not even get singed.” Lucy said, “Do you think God will put fire on our heads as we worship today?” Charlie said, “I think God will get a lot further if he doesn’t put fire over our heads but under our pews.” Charlie Brown was wrong. The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to put fire on our heads or even under our pews but He puts a fire in our hearts. How? Answer. Though the Word. Luke put it this way, “On the Road to Emmaus they said to each other, didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Wouldn’t you just love to be like them and get divine heart burn today? I hope you brought your tums to church with you this Pentecost. We might just need it… because the Spirit who moves us up from our low places, the Spirit who moves us into God’s Word, then moves us out into the world… I figured that might give some of you heart burn. On Pentecost, after hearing the Word preached, 3000 people “who had received his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” That was impressive. I would have to preach to a college campus football stadium just to get 3000 people to hear my sermon let alone that they would all hear, believe, and be baptized. I will never preach a sermon to you about going out into the world without giving you at least some concrete ways to do it. What does that entail? Take a look at your bulletin insert: We are looking for people interested to volunteer at the church. We are looking for trustees. We are looking for someone to be a financial secretary. We are always looking for people to help us teach Sunday School. We collect food for the Seminary. In the coming weeks, we will be collecting jeans for the homeless. Over the past year, I have invited several missionaries to speak with us. You could give to Micah Wildauer’s ministry in Belize or John Reinke’s ministry to the deaf. In the coming months, we will be gearing up for our annual sausage supper. Help us make the event successful…. invite someone to church. Here is another idea. What if we planned an outdoor service at Babler State Park? Do you know family or friends that you could invite? They could come to a neutral location in the park, hear the Word, participate in worship, and we could all enjoy each-other’s fellowship and have a church picnic together. Have you ever seen the movie “Hacksaw Ridge” about Desmond Doss? He was a medic stationed on the Island of Okinawa in April, May, and June of 1945. Every day for three months he climbed a rope ladder and he would bring down wounded soldiers. One day Desmond Doss brought down 70 wounded warriors. After World War II, President Harry Truman gave him the Congressional Medal of Honor. What did Desmond Doss say every day on Okinawa. “Just one more.” May the Spirit lead us to say the same. Just one more. There are so many wounded and broken people beyond these walls. May we go out, and lift them up, and bring them in. There is real lasting healing in Jesus. Take note of some of the wounded people in Acts 2. Parthians and medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and Libya, Cyrene and Rome. Considering the list, tell me what is not there? There are no barriers. No racial barriers, no economic barriers, no gender barriers, no education barriers. “Red, yellow, black, and white all are precious in his sight.” Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. “Just one more.” Billy Gram told a story about a fire at church. It was a small town church, the building was burning to the ground. The pastor was there watching the church go down in flames from the street when the fire department arrived. The pastor recognized one of the firemen. He walked up to him and said, Jim I haven’t seen you in church in ages. To which Jim said, “Well, pastor there ain’t been a fire in church in a long time.” There ain’t been a fire in church in a long time. Is that how you feel? Do you feel dull… but respectable? The liturgy is dull… but respectable. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to move us from knowing to experiencing. The Spirit ignites us to move up in worship, into the Word, and out into the world. Pentecost was and still is a powerful moment which continues to remind us that God was and is still at work among His church. It reminds us that the church and our communion in it is about Him. And that is a beautiful thing. Especially given, He has done all the work, and all He wants us to do is to remain in it, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, may that be so… He even offers to lead us and guide us. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful. Kindle in us, especially in us, the fire of your love, the fire of faith. Let the fire spread. In the grace of God, which surpasses all understanding, trust your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Amen.

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May 12, 2024 - Acts 1: 6-12 (Ascension Sunday)

Acts 1-6-12
00:00 / 14:56

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, today marks a very special day. As I’m sure you are most readily aware; today is Mother’s Day. To all of the mothers in our congregation, happy Mother’s Day! What are your Mother’s Day traditions? Is it an occasion for getting together, making contact, sending or receiving cards, buying flowers, having a special meal and going to church with the whole family on this day. Whatever it is that you do, it is a good thing to take time on this second Sunday in May to honor or remember one of God's greatest gifts to humankind, that is, our mothers… Mothers are indeed a gift from God, and besides every last one of us owes our existence to our mother. On this day I pray that God would give us all humble hearts that allows us to give thanks to God for all our mothers--Our biological mothers to be sure, and for all our mothers, our mother in laws and also our “mothers of the faith” for they too have gone far beyond biology and have raised us in the truth… A blessed, happy, memorable Mother’s Day to all of you. In the midst of these celebrations, I’d like to remind you that from a Christian perspective this today is important for more than just being Mother’s Day. Today is also the last Sunday in the Season of Easter, and more than that, today is Ascension Sunday… Ascension Day took place 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus. On this day in the church year we celebrate and remember the 40 days after the resurrection Christ returned to be with the Father. Unlike Mother’s Day, I imagine you and your family do not have Ascension Day traditions. I mean, what is your favorite Ascension Day food? Do you have any? Do you have any annual Ascension Day customs? Do you go on a picnic or cook a nice meal? I’m not surprised if you don’t. I mean, even in the life of the Church, Ascension day has never been a major celebration day like that of Christmas and Easter. That being said, it deserves some credit because the ascension of Jesus Christ is one of the most important things that Christians believe. I’m not suggesting that it is in some way more important than Christmas or Easter, but what I am saying is that the Ascension is an integral part of our Christian faith and if Christians, in general, understood the Ascension for that it means, I bet they would celebrate it. You see, I have a feeling that the average Christian views the Ascension as something too other-worldly to be practical. I mean it is easy for us to understand why we celebrate something as tangible as Jesus’ birthday or why Jesus’ resurrection from dead is such a big deal. I hope you see by the end of the sermon that whether or not we ever celebrate Ascension Day as a large festival day, theologically the Ascension of Jesus is right up next to Christmas and Easter in terms of importance for us? Our Epistle Lesson for this week is taken from Acts Chapter 1 beginning with verse 12. I’d like to read to you a little bit more from that chapter beginning in verse 6. Hear these words recorded by Luke in Acts Chapter 1. 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” At the ascension Jesus was lifted up. It is as if Jesus has vanished into thin air and worst of all it would seem as though Jesus left us empty handed with a bunch of questions. Let’s be honest, I can see why the Ascension never became a celebrated holiday. I mean, can you sympathize with the disciples in Acts Chapter 1? Lord, I’m tired of my suffering. It is my desire that you bring your kingdom into fruition now. To this sentiment Jesus responded, “It is not time yet and besides it is not for you to know the times and seasons in which the Father has appointed.” Jesus shut that idea down and Jesus said I have a better plan and here it is… that you will be my witness in Jerusalem and Judea, and Samaria and to the end of the earth. Let’s be honest, when I hear it said like that, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed that I had ever questioned Jesus. I feel ashamed because His plan of salvation is so much bigger and better and honestly far more encompassing than my plan could have ever been. Jesus’ plan of salvation is not only for all people, but more than that. The Ascension allows us to see a small picture into what the end goal will look like. We not only look forward to Christ’s return but we also look forward to the day when we will have a body much like His. What will our body be like? In no small way, the Ascension informs our understanding. You see, I think the Ascension helps us to appreciate the strangeness of Jesus’ resurrected body. How strange was it? Well, it was strange enough that no one seemed to recognize Him. You see, maybe the word resurrection is a little misleading. What happened on Easter was not just Jesus’ dead body coming back to life… like Lazarus. What happened on Easter was the cosmic order of sin coming to an end. When Jesus died he conquered sin, by doing so His body was resurrected, or in other words, it was transformed. The resurrection and Ascension of Jesus attests to what lies ahead for all of us. Jesus is the first to be transformed, but he will not be the last. Scripture attests to the fact that on account of him we will all have a body like his. It is a body that will not be subject to corruption, sin, and death, and in fact, we will be transformed into something that none of us can conceivably imagine. When will all this come to be? Like I said, Jesus would not tell us. But it should not be lost on us that the Ascension took place 40 days after the resurrection. What is my point? 40 days is a nice whole number that the Bible loves to use as a teaching tool. Recall 40 days and 40 nights, it rained on Noah’s boat, 40 days and 40 nights Moses interceded for Israel on Mt. Sinai, 40 days and 40 nights the Israelites spied in Canaan before entering the promise Land. Elijah fled from Jezebel 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb. And Likewise, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness fasting and being tempted and now we are given the same 40 days and 40 nights between the resurrection and the ascension. What is my point? My point is that God loves to use the span of 40 days and 40 nights as an indication that He is taking the time to teach us something about our future. God sends a 40 day flood to teach Noah about His new covenant with His people. God used 40 days and subsequently 40 years to teach the Israelites about God’s laws and what they mean. In the New Testament, Jesus, unsurprisingly, used these 40 days and 40 nights to teach them about the ministry that they were about to be apart of. Notice what He was doing for those 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. At every post resurrection appearance of Jesus, He taught them. He taught them what? He taught them the Old Testament prophesies and how He fulfilled them. Why did he do this? In order to prepare them. Prepare them for what? He sought to prepare them, as best as He could, for what He loved to talk most about… that is, the coming kingdom of God. Over the course of His ministry, the kingdom of God was described by Jesus in many different ways. At times Jesus said, the kingdom of God is like a tiny little seed that will grow into a great great big tree. At Other times, he likened the Kingdom to a lost coin and to a great treasure. These these examples are only metaphors. The striking this about the Ascension is that it is not a metaphor, rather it is for us a real glimpse into the Kingdom of God. In a word, the doctrine of the Ascension carries along with it the return of Christ and the subsequent transformation of this world. What does this “transformation stuff” mean for me? Well, consider your situation. For those who struggle to get around, your resurrected body will have knees that Isaiah would say, will be able to leap like a deer. For those who are getting forgetful, your resurrected body will have memory and an understanding that far exceeds that of Solomon. Picture a world in which cancer is not the final Word and death is never the victor. A transformed world, what a wonderful thing to think about, but what does that do for us now. During these times, we must remember all that stuff Jesus said in the Final Discourse of John 14-17? That stuff about sending the Holy Spirit and that stuff about abiding with Him and how we are made one with the Father as He is with the Father. Remember all that stuff about prayer? It is all important because all of it is meant to prepare us for what lies ahead. None of us have all the answer about the Kingdom of God. What I can say is that it suffices at least for me that when I say in the Apostles’ Creed, “He ascended into heaven,” I am confessing as a Christians the bold claim that there is something other-worldly at work here, something so big and so grand that it cannot be limited by our narrow earth-bound categories. This Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem’s stable, He was a teacher, a prophet, a healer, a friend, and even a son that love and respected his mother. Later, He suffered and died on the cross and that same Jesus who is risen is now ascended to sit at the right hand of the Creator. The ascension of Jesus confirms that Jesus is Lord, not just of his home habitat of Jerusalem and the Galilean countryside. He is not just the Lord of our hearts. Jesus ascends to the right hand of the father and that means He reigns as Lord over all of creation. What suffices for me is that we have a creator that has a plan and that plan is so much greater than anything I could have ever conceived to be possible. Most importantly, his cosmic plan of His, it includes me. It includes my body and my mind. One day I too will go to be with the father and at that time all that I know about myself and everything else will be transformed. The Ascension, everything about the Ascension should be cause to celebrate? Thanks be to God.

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May 5, 2024 - 1 John 5:1-8 

1 John 5-1-8
00:00 / 18:19

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At this time of the year, I often hear news coverage on baseball preseason games. I guess in baseball, they are technically called Spring training games, not preseason. They are games for the coaches to test out the newly signed players. The thing about Spring training games is they don’t count towards the season. They are warm-up games. And that means, when you win, you really don’t win. When you beat your opponent you really don’t beat your opponent. When you gain the victory you really don’t gain the victory. Why is that? Because none of the games are counted. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel your life is like that? Everyday you are expected to get out of bed and play the game, but it doesn’t matter. You wake up in the morning and it is just like yesterday. We work really hard for something, that house, that job, that promotion, and once we get it, it looses its luster. We achieve the victory only to feel as though it is dust in the wind. Sometimes life seems so pointless, so meaningless. Whether we realize it or not, we are all looking for real victory. Today John has really really good news for you. We all know a lot about fake and phony victories. Like when you land the job of your dreams but three years later it is a nightmare. Like when you build the home of your dreams and three years later there are cracks forming in your basement. Like when you think you met Mr. Right and three months later, Mr. Right turns out to be who? Mr. Wrong. Or like when work really really hard to make the team. And your name makes the list. Your on the team… but all season you sit on the bench… my life’s story. Into this context, John guarantees us ultimate, lasting, and permanent victory. Victory is the word of the day. It appears 4 times in our text. 1 John 5:4-5, “For everyone born of God has the victory over the world. This is the victory that has the victory over the world, our faith. Who is it that has the victory over the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” There you have it, the word “victory” four times in two verses. The Greek word for victory is Nike. You thought Nike just sold athletic shoes and sponsored football players. Long before there was that Nike, there was a Greek word nike meaning victory. It means triumph. It means winning. It means to overcome. Three of the four times John uses the word nike in Chapter 5, it appears as a verb… has the victory, has the victory, has the victory, those are verbs. And they are present tense verbs. Big idea. John does not use a past tense verb saying “you had the victory”. John does not use a future tense verb saying “you will have the victory”. John uses a present tense verb. You have the victory, have the victory, have the victory, right now in your hand. It is an permanent victory… an ongoing triumph. “Everyone born of God has the victory over the world.” In other words, the world can’t touch us. We have the Nike! In the words of Oliver, “I can run faster than you.” I know when you got up this morning you may not have felt you have the nike. Truth be told, most of us most of the time don’t feel like we have the victory at all. I feel as though I stumble and fall. I feel like a poor miserable sinner. But that does not change what John writes. And understand this is a stunning claim. Because in the world which John writes, people did not believe they could have the victory. In fact, nike was not a word used for people. Nike was used for the goddess Nike. Only the God’s and the Goddess could have victory. People could not experience real nike, real victory. That was for the gods and goddesses. But it is into that context that John says, “We have the victory.” The Word Nike is quite rare in the bible. Paul said, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul said, “in all these things” meaning, :IN our sinful, broken, fallen, messed up situations. He does not say we can go AROUND all these things, or ABOVE all these things… or UNDER these things. We are in it. Worse that that… it is in us. It is in my life, in my mind, in my heart. But in it all, we are more than conquerors. The word translated as “more than conquerors” is hyper-nikomen. You know what Hyper means. I’m sure you have been around a 3 year old boy. His cup is filled to the brim with energy. It is never ending. Nikomen- there’s your word nike. And it gets translated as more than conquerors… we are extreme victors who can conquer our environment like Bear Grylls… even when we are in the thick of it. Even when your car breaks down. Even when your alarm clock doesn’t go off, even when you are sick or grieving (Paul would say, we don’t grieve as the world grieves), even when your kids don’t listen to you, even when you have a bad back. In it all, we are hyper-nike-people because of Jesus. That is what Paul teaches… that is what John teaches… that is what Jesus teaches. In John 16 Jesus said, “In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome (nike) the world.” So understand the victory... is over what? Using the same words as Jesus, John says in 1 John Chapter 5 you have victory over the world. And he said it three times. It is not victory over the government. It is not victory over your arch-rival the Chicago Cubs. Sorry to burst that bubble. The victory is over the world. What is the world? It doesn’t mean the globe. It doesn’t mean society. It doesn’t mean people. The world, the Cosmos, means the world order… the world systems… the world’s values- the definitions the world gives to happiness, success, and the good life. And John says the world is a sick upside-down system. It is dominated by the devil, it is living in darkness, it is opposed to Jesus. 1 John Chapter 2 says “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh (which is gluttony, lust, and sloth) and the desires of the eyes (which is greed) and pride of life (which is pride, envy, and anger) — all of this is not from the Father but is from the world. That was John’s list of the seven deadly sins. The world system offers you everything, but in the end delivers you death. That very world, that wants to steam-roll you, and destroy your faith in Jesus, that world that says everything we talk about today is fake and phony. John says we have victory over that world. But how? Answer. Through Faith. Paul says it like this, Paul says, “We are perplexed but not in despair.” Why? We still have hope. Hope in what? Hope in Jesus. Hope says Jesus is on this throne, hope says He was the first to be transformed, but He will not be the last. John says it is not your fight. Most of us feel like me, I’m fighting battles each and every day… and I’m doing it as the one man band. But that is not correct at all. As David had said in 1 Samuel 17, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” Therefore whatever you are fighting, it is His battle. And you have the victory not by what you do, but by faith in the One that did it all. Brothers in Christ, faith is not a feeling, faith is not a hunch or a guess. Faith is a firm conviction. Allow me to illustrate. Consider you have come to an old rickety suspension bridge. The only way to get to the other side would be to take the bridge. You have to have faith in the bridge. You have to believe the bridge will hold but in the final analysis it really was not your faith that held you up but the bridge. Meaning, your faith is only as good as the object of your faith. And what is your object of faith? What is going to get you through your battles? What is going to get you to the other side? In the final Chapter of 1 John, John is very clear the answer is Jesus. Jesus is the son of God or in other words, God the Son. He is the way the truth and the life. And if our faith is only as good as the object of our faith, you can count on Jesus. We have the victory because Jesus has the victory. This Thursday is Ascension Day after all… where is Jesus? “Seated at the right hand of the father.” When we say Jesus Ascended to the “right hand of the Father” that is not so much designating his location, but rather designating his authority. Ascension Day is not a celebration that we have an absentee God. It is a celebration that Jesus, who had descend from this authority in order to endure all of humanity’s pain and sin and sorrow on the cross, He has now ascended to reclaim His throne. That is the reason John can say with certainty, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is hthe confidence that we have toward him, that iif we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” The Collect prayer appointed for Ascension Day, is this: “Assist us oh Lord, and grant that since we believe the Savior of Mankind to be seated with you in your majesty, that we might feel that he abides with us even until the end of the age.” For the entirety of the Easter Season, we have been focused and fixated on experiencing real things: like having real faith in the real risen lord, living in real forgiving relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ, expressing real love for each other. Finally, today John wants us to know and to experience the real victory. We believe we have the victory, but how do I experience it. Do we have to die to experience it? Do we have to go up to God to experience it? Answer no. He came down to us. 1 John 5:6-8 “This is he who came uby water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And vthe Spirit is the one who testifies, because wthe Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” John says we experience the victory through the water, blood, and Spirit. The first time water blood and spirit appear together would be John 19 where Jesus gives up his spirit and died on the cross. And a soldier thrusted a spear into his side and our flowed water and blood. But now when John refers to water and Blood and spirit he is referring to how Jesus’ victory on the cross is delivered to us. How? Water- Baptism. Blood, the Lord’s Supper, and Spirit- God’s inspired Word. These are how we can have the victory even now. And you don’t have to go up and get it. God brings it down right here for you. Have you ever head of the Battle of the Nile. It was a battle between the British and the French in 1798. The British really needed a victory because they had just lost the American Colonies. It was a huge battle which recodified British dominance over the Europe and Africa. After the battle the British general, Lord Biron, returned to England and told the king “Victory is not a large enough word to describe what took place.” That is what John is talking about. Nike… even hyper-nike is not a large enough word to describe what Jesus has done for us. You can believe in Him. And more than that, you can live for Him, by Him, in Him. We have the victory because of His death and resurrection. And the victory is delivered to you through water and blood and the Spirit. Therefore, this victory, this news, is cause to celebrate. It is after all still the season of Easter. I will remind you of the Easter Message: He is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia. In the grace of God, which surpasses all understanding trust your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Amen.

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April 28, 2024 - 1 John 4:7-12

1 John 4-7-12
00:00 / 18:13

Today we are in the fifth week of Easter. For the past 5 weeks, I’ve been using the phrase “OF Easter” not “after Easter”… Both are correct, but I’m here to remind you Easter is not just a one day of the year thing. We are still in the Easter season literally for two more weeks, and more than that, we live in and through the resurrection every day of our lives. It is important to be reminded of that, because life can fall into routine and mundaneness. Today John has a remedy for that. First, let’s recall where we have been in the First Epistle of John. John testified the resurrection was verifiable. He saw Jesus, touched Jesus, he ate with Jesus. Then John testified the resurrection changes everything. He said, “You are now a child of God” and therefore “We love because God first loved us.” That’s good to know, but that does not mean relationships have become easy. One might think relationships are easier today than they have ever been. We have smart phones, face time, social media, email. However, an article in the New York times written by Psychologist Barbra Fredrickson, argued just as sedentary lifestyles causes atrophy and weakened muscles, our habitual use of smart phones causes our relational muscles to become weak and in some cases die. Fredrickson’s point is our ability to relate to people is along the same lines as “use it or lose it”. Just like the muscles in your body, if you stop getting out of your chair pretty soon you wont be able to get out of your chair. Fredrickson says if we don’t regularly exercise our relational muscles by connecting with people ear to ear, eye to eye, story to story we will lessen our capacity to have relationships. “Oh, it can’t be that bad.” Well, have you ever been to a restaurant looked around and saw entire families sitting at tables not talking to each other and just looking at their phones. If you haven’t noticed that, you might have been on your phone. This happens all the time. I would be willing to bet COVID intensified the problem. The church for a long time suspended fellowship gathering and there are still people not coming to church worried about getting a virus. And I’ve seen it, when distance creeps in, conflict fills the gaps, and or other people fill the gaps or other routines, and in some cases, people leave and never come back. When we began this journey through the First Epistle of John, this was my original goal: to help you to grow in your appreciation for the Christian Church and help you to grow as a member of the Christian Church. In that sense, First John is leading us to Pentecost. Can we turn the corner? Can we reconnect with one another? Can we for a moment put away our phones and reconnect face to face, eye to eye, story to story. John has some advice for us in Chapter 4 and he begins where he left of last week. “Dear friends, God is love, so love one another.” Love one another is a common phrase in the New Testament. It appears 23 times. Last week, we dug deep into that phrase, but to review: Love, real love, Biblical love is a commitment… not a feeling. It is a choice to sacrificially give come what may. It is not the thought that counts. It means do something. It means “Come Hell or high water, till death do us part.” And that is who God is. God is love. Therefore, love one another. 1 John 3:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because GOD IS LOVE.” That means: God is not the great terminator in the sky. God is not an Ebenezer Scrooge. God is not a knit picking tax accountant. God is not a vengeful judge. God is not a policeman holding a radar gun waiting to give you a ticket. No, God is love. And love is not a part of God’s character. It is not peripheral to God’s character. God is love. Come Hell of high water, God is committed to sacrificially give himself for us. I know when we hear the phrase “God is love”, we often hear “God loves me”. That’s true. God does love you. He also loves me. He loves all people… John 3:16. But it is saying more that that. Because it is not saying, God desired to be loving. So he decided to create you to have something to love. Therefore, he could be love. John does not say “In the beginning God became love.” John had said, God become a man but not that he became love. God is love. So, how are we to understand this? And why does it matter? It matters because love is God’s very nature and furthermore we were created to participate in it. I don’t want to get too involved in this explanation because I anticipate we will be talking about this very soon on Trinity Sunday. But the doctrine of the Trinity testifies that God is one in three persons. Tri-meaning three and Un- meaning one. Three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God three persons. Mysteriously unified in substance but distinct in three persons. The point for today is God is by definition a relational God. And God therefore can be by definition love. At the heart of all reality, is a relationship within the trinity. A real lasting committed sacrificial relationship. The Trinity is what makes God’s love possible. Just consider if we believed in a one person God. God is all alone. God is up there on his throne. There’s no one else like him. No one else can understand him or relate to him. And we could not say He was by definition love because love by definition is other focused. And this one person God, at least at one time, would have had no one else to focus upon except himself. That’s not sacrificial… it’s selfish. But our God is Triune and is love. Our God from eternity has been love and then as an explosion of love they created us. That’s what is says in Genesis 1:26. It says, “Let us create them in our image.” We are most living in the image of God when we are loving one another and when we make the commitment to live in sacrificial relationships together. After all, we were Baptized into a relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; He loved us and that leads us to love one another. In verse 9 John says, God is love, but we also know him as being just and righteous. God seeing how unlovable we have been, and being committed to take care of sin once and for all (because that’s what justice demands), He sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice recalling the Day of Atonement in Leviticus Chapter 16. Recall that on the Day of Atonement, one Goat was to be sacrificed and a second goat was to be let loose into the wilderness. John is saying God in love and justice sent Jesus as both your atoning sacrifice and scape goat. Question: what is stopping you from love. What is getting in the way of you having relationships? Answer. For many, it is withholding forgiveness. We struggle to love because we keep a record of wrongs. We nurse hurt. We replay it over and over again. It is high time and past time to stop putting all the blame and shame and baggage between us. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. Jesus is also the scape goat. And we need to understand, we are to not only place our personal sins on Jesus but all sins on Jesus. “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor executed just before the end of WWII said, “Those who love their dream of a Christian community (or the dream of a perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect church) If you love your dream more than the community itself you become a destroyer of that community even though your personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.” When you scapegoat people… blame people… it is all your fault. That destroys churches, and families, and relationships. And let me tell you, I’ve seen this over the years. I’ve seen it recently. But Biblical love gives up these ideals of perfection. Biblical love recognizes that any community is filled with sinners. But we, as people of faith, are to place all the blame not on the community or on the people but upon Jesus. Jesus made that possible for us in love. So, the foundation of my love is not in people. If your love is contingent upon people and what they do or don’t do, they will sooner or later disappoint you. However, if your foundation for a life of love is God, God is love and God still loves… therefore, so will you. In Verse 12 John says something that might seem to not fit the conversation. He says “No one has ever seen God”. He is right, we have not seen the Triune God with the naked eye. But this might seem like a strange argument in the context of his conversation. Especially, because earlier in Chapter 1 he argued we have seen God. So, what’s the point? John is saying when we make the commitment to sacrificially love, God lives in us and, therefore, people may not see the Trinity walking around but they can see God’s love in you. John goes on to say, “His love is made complete in us.” Isn’t God’s love complete already? Sure it is. It is perfect and complete in and of itself but God wants us to be more than a receiver of His love. He wants us to be a conduit of His love. And when I make a commitment to sacrificially give till death do us part it does not just go to you it goes through you…that is love being made complete in us. I’m going to honest, I’m about to tell you a really bad joke. There was once a Lutheran pastor and he loved children. He loved children’s messages. He loved VBS… He loved children. But one day he was sitting in his office and he saw children playing in some newly poured concrete. He went outside and yelled at them. Get out of here. Never come back. Later his wife said, what happened I thought you loved children? He said, I do. I love them in the abstract, but not in the concrete. (I told you it was bad.) It is so easy to love in the abstract. I love the world. I love all people. I especially love the homeless and the orphan and those in prison. But when they are in the concrete. When they are knocking on my door asking for money, I get myself a video door bell so I no longer have to answer it. That’s what we do. We retreat into our electronic world. TVs, laptops, Facebook, snapchat, twitter. Everything is kept safe and shallow. But John has something to say about that. John says God is love. Love is the core of who God is. And we saw how deep the Father’s Love for us when he sent his Son to die our death on the cross on Good Friday. So what does it all mean? It means you and I can break out of the artificial, fake, and phony and have real, honest, Christian, kind, loving relationships. It won’t be easy. It will take commitment. It will take sacrifice of self for the greater whole. But it is what God wants. And in the end, we will realize it is what we wanted all along. “Love because God first love us."

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April 21, 2024 - 1 John 3:16-24

1 John 3-16-24
00:00 / 16:56

Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter, and today we encounter beloved texts, and literally, a beloved theme. They are familiar because every year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Church celebrates “Good Shepherd Sunday.” On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, “the real, risen, reigning, Good Shepherd” loves you and welcomes you into the fold. It is very important to hold that in the backdrops of your mind. Even though we are not going to focus all our attention on Jesus as Good shepherd, everything we are going to talk about on Good Shepherd Sunday is based upon what Jesus did for us as the Good Shepherd. John 10:11 “I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” John will go on to write in Chapter 4, “We love because God first loved us.” What is love? How would you define it and where would you say you learned what love is? Listening to some songs on the Radio, after a brief study, I would say for some people, love is lust… love is “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. Nothing more nothing less. Date around, sleep around, never commit. Is that love? Listening to other songs on the Radio, I would say for the vast majority of people love is a feeling. It is what you think… It is at least how a lot of us work. Feelings come and feelings go, therefore, love must come and love must go. Love runs hot and love runs cold. Like a roller-coaster, love is up, love is down. That’s how it works… you know the song “I lost that lovin’ feeling.” Often times that becomes the justification for people who at one time I said “I do”… but later said, “I don’t”. Why is that, because the feelings gone. Recently we have been focusing on the Epistle lessons from 1 John. Two weeks ago John discussed the real risen Jesus. He was seeable, touchable, verifiable… He appeared to the disciples and later to over 500 people at the same time. Last week we talked about real change. The resurrection changes everything: your relationship with God, your relationship with the world, your relationship with sin. You are a redeemed child of God now. Today we are going to talk about real love, not fake love, not phony love, real love as defined by God. John uses the word “love” 33 times in this short 5 chapter letter. The word is Agape. Apape love doesn’t say I love you “if”. Agape love doesn’t say I love you “because”. If and because are conditional. Agape love says I love you period. Come what may we are in this together. Agape love is not lust nor a feeling. Love is a decision. Love is actions. It is something you do. John writes, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Is love a priority in your life? Is the decisions you make and the actions you take motivated by love or something else? I admit sometimes I have different priorities than love. I want to practice my guitar. I want to ride my bike. I want to garden or go for a drive. What are your highest priorities? Yours are probably something similar to mine. But John hits us right in the forehead, and says the number 1 priority is to be the love of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. “And by this we know we have passed from death to life.” John has used that phrase before in John’s Gospel Chapter 5:24 “he said we have passed from death to life because we hear and trust Jesus.” Now he said, we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. So which is it? Have we passed from death to life because of faith or love? Answer both. We have passed from death to life because we have saving faith in Jesus but saving faith is never alone. It shows itself in love. It is so important that John says if you don’t love you are dead. According to John, you cannot say, I don’t love you because you’re not attractive enough. I don’t love you because you’re not smart enough or witty enough or successful enough. I don’t love you because you don’t have enough money, or you’re not young enough, or because you don’t love me enough. If love is not a feeling and love is a choice than if I don’t love people that’s on me. This is so counter-intuitive. Because most of the time we say “I can’t love them because of some choice they made.” I’m sorry but the Bible does not allow for that. If you don’t love that’s on you. And John says, if you don’t love you are making the choice to remain in death. Talk about an over exaggeration. It can’t be that bad or that black and white. There are many people I don’t necessarily love, but I don’t hate them either. Wrong… dead wrong. According to the Bible, one cannot remain on the fence. One cannot remain indifferent… Indifference is death. There is a movie called the “The four Feathers”. The movie is set in the late 1800’s in Africa. In the movie a British officer gets lost in the Sahara Desert. He is almost dead when an African tribesman finds him. The African Tribesmen delivers the Englishman from death and they become friends. At one point in the movie, the English officer asked why do you keep loving me? African tribesman responded because God put you in my path. That is what John is teaching. I love the checkout clerk because God put them in my path. I love my wife because God put my wife in my path and my children in my path. God put you in my path… that’s why I love you. John wants love to be the constant. We are bombarded by all kinds of negativity… I hardly have to tell you how messed up our world is. But we are called to be different. Therefore, let us decide to meet it with love. I decide to love you not because of what you can do for me. I don’t love you because you’re an Cardinal’s fan. I love you because God put you in my path, period. It is a matter of life and death. So make it a priority. If that is our decision, what does it look like? “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” Love is sacrifice. Jesus gave up everything, his desires, his dreams, his life, his body and blood. Jesus sacrifices everything for us. That’s love, real love, not lust, not a fickle feeling, real love. An action, a commitment, a choice. Jesus was cursed so we are blessed. Jesus hung in the darkness so We could sit in the light. Jesus took Hell’s worst so we could get heavens best. Can you see it? We are loved. And this is the pattern. He sacrificed himself for us. A teacher asked her students to describe love without using the word. Here is what her students said: “These cookies are great. They are hardly burnt at all.” “I’ll go to the tracker pull event with you. Looking forward to it.” “You can take the last piece of apple pie. I can make another one.” What did all those have in common? Sacrifice. Love is sacrifice. Fake phony love does not make sacrifices. John says “if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear Children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” John says if you are going to practice love you are going to need to have something: time, material, energy. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’d love to read that book to that child, but I haven’t got the time. I’d love to give to my church’s ministry, but haven’t got the money. I’d love to spend quality time with her but I’m just spent. Our world pushes us to keep up with the Jones, to buy everything, be everything, do everything, so much so that many of us are running so on empty we have nothing to love with. I have no time, no energy, no money to love others… If that is you, you will need to make deliberate changes because the alternative is distant or broken relationships or worse. John also calls for us to “see”. He calls for us to open our eyes and be observant to need. I can have all the resources in the world, all the time and all the energy, but if I’m so wrapped up in me than I can’t see you, I will fail to love. Husbands, let’s admit we do this all the time. The house is filthy, children are crying and the man is outside in the backyard cutting down a tree limb that no one sees. I’ve done that before. Of course, I’d like to justify it to myself, that limb was blocking the gardens view of the sun. Generally, women see needs more than men. But personally, you should ask yourself where are you on the spectrum. And John’s simple solution is open your eyes and be observant, “oh that is her favorite desert. Oh that is his favorite place to go.” Take mental notes and do those things. What is keeping you from real love? Like I said, sometimes I don’t have the money, time, or energy. And sometimes I’m just oblivious. And because of it, my relationships become shallow, superficial, and mechanical, just going through the motions. And that kind of love is fake, fickle, and it wastes away. We need the power to love. We cannot do this on our own. John knows that. He knows we are failing sinners rather than achieving saints. Therefore, he said, “When our hearts condemn us God is greater than our hearts.” The Good news is God is greater than our failures and He loves us despite our failures. Here is a story to describe this: a man bought a new red Porsche. Undenounced to him, his wife took the car for a drive and wretched it into a phone poll. When the police arrived, she went into the glove box to get the insurance card and in the little buckled folder there was a letter which read, “Honey, know I love you, not the car.” When we get ourselves all dinged and damaged. Do we realize God wrote us an book to read, and even more than that, God sent us his son, not to scrap us, but to redeem us. Now that is love. “That the Good shepherd would lay his life down for the sheep.” It is after all, Good shepherd Sunday. The other day I saw a video trending on social media of a sheep that fell into a hole. A good Samaritan come and pulled the sheep out and as the sheep ran away it fell right into another hole. When we were stuck in a hole our good shepherd, in love, reached out his arms on the cross. He was pierced and laid down his own life. He did all of that, so that you would be pure and holy and redeemed and that you would bear his name and one day graze in green pastures. But more than that, even now, even on this day, he promises to be with you and to guide you, and to give you the power to show His love to those around you. “We love because God first loved us.” In the grace of God, which surpasses all understanding, trust your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Amen.

Spring Blossom

April 14, 2024 - 1 John 3:1-7

1 John 3-1-7
00:00 / 17:03

A couple of weeks ago, it was a beautiful morning. I came to church ready for worship. I entered the church when I always do and someone was sitting in my seat. It’s a good seat. It’s my seat. I’ve been there for years. Right there in the center. Not too far back, but not too far forward. But then there was this person sitting right there. To make myself perfectly clear, I like my seat. It’s a good seat. But I could sit somewhere... Couldn’t I? It’s not that big of a deal. I’m not the kind of person who is going to get all bent out of shape over a seat. And I’m also not the kind of person who would ever hold a grudge. But it was April 4th that this person took my seat. I had never done anything against this person and I believe they have their own seat somewhere else. I don’t know what they were thinking. But now, I feel like I need to come several hours early to make sure I get my seat. This is how social injustice begins. Some pushy person, not thinking about anyone other than themselves, sits down in an innocent persons seat. This is the way seeds of revolution sprout. Where’s it going to end? First it’s my seat. Next it’s my parking spot. And then, because of where you sat and parked, you are going to get to Letty Lou’s before me and order my burger. And then what? My house, my car, my money. world order is in shambles. I think you know what I’m driving towards. No one likes… change. “Come wheel come woa, my status is quo.” Don’t mess with my seat, my parking spot, my schedule, or the way things have always been done. The only person who like change is who? A baby with a wet diaper. Well, brace yourselves. Today’s text is going to challenge you. It’s going to be about change. Not superficial change. It is about real lasting fundamental change. We have after all transitioned into the Easter Season and as I’ve said, “Easter changes everything”! Last week John wrote, “The life, that is Jesus Christ, WE have seen it and testify to it, and WE proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to US.” The resurrection is transformative. In other words, it changes us… Today we are going to talk more about that. Last week, John said WE have seen. This week John calls for US to “see”. It is an imperative verb. Meaning it is not an invitation. It is a command. Come sit next to me. See what I see… Open your eyes and see how the resurrection has changed our relationship with God. I admit, a lot of times it doesn’t feel different. It may not look different. Just this past week, I had a sewer back up in my basement, again. I had two broken washer machine. And I still have a broken car I can’t get fixed. I look at my messy life, and all the pain going on around me, and I feel nothing has changed with me or God. I’m still on the outs. I still feel rejected, unwanted, unloved. I’m going to go home and eat rocks. Then I’m going to walk around with a chip on my shoulder and a sour attitude because He promised me change and nothing has changed. Open your eyes and behold, what John says. “See how great a love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called Children of God; and that is what we are.” Baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, children of God, that is what we are; and your relationship with God has forever changed. Paul put it like this, “because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, therefore we can cry, “Abba! Father!” All of our insecurities, comparisons, and competitions, all of our jealousy and envy, all of the ways we try to validate ourselves, all of that melts away when we see the kind of love the Father has lavished on us. What kind of love. It’s Forgiven love. It’s costly love. It’s Calvary love. It’s blood bought love. It’s death and resurrection love. It’s real love... that has no end. John calls it lavished love. I’d compare it to going to Baskin Robbins and asking for a double scoop cone. “I don’t know what I want… you decide the best flavor.” The person behind the counter hands you a cone with a scope of all 31 flavors on it and it is staked a mile high. That’s lavished. We will never change in our relationship with God, if we see God as a nickel and dime kind of God. God is cheap. God only gives us gifts when it’s on clearance. And God only gives me handy downs from Dollar General and Walmart. But that is not what the Bible says. John writes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Psalmist says, “My cup runneth over.” He is not having to save for a rainy day. God lavished on us. And this is fundamental to understand all the change God wants to bring to your life. So understand, you are not unwanted. You are not rejected. You are not unloved. You are Baptized. Therefore, You belong. And you can sit wherever you want. Now here’s the deal, because our relationship with God has changed, our relationship with the world has also changed. John says, “the world does not know us because the world did not know Him.” This sound like John, John also said, “The light has come into the world, but the darkness did not comprehend it.” How come the world doesn’t agree with us. Why can’t the world see what I see? Come on world! The reason why the world looks at us and thinks we are wasting our Sunday mornings is because the world does not know the real Risen Jesus. Being called a child of God in Church is a great honor. Being called a child of God in the world, no one cares. The world does not know you because just as Jesus was different, you are different. How? You understand the love God has lavished upon you. You understand what Christ has done to save you. You have different schedules, different goals, different priorities. You have a different life style, and therefore, our relationship with the world has changed now and into the future. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Sometimes, I think the future has nothing good for me. “The future ain’t what it used to be.” The future is more despair, more darkness, more death. John says no way José. John says we are now and not yet Christians. We are now children of God, but the best is yet to come. We will be like Jesus. In the words of Paul, one day our perishable bodies will put on imperishability. One day our moral flesh will put on immortality. But even now God is making us more like Jesus. He is shaping us to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, act like Jesus, but there is more to come. For Jesus, who rose from the dead, is going to return for us. In the meantime, our relationship with sin is forever changed. That does not mean we never sin anymore. Back in Chapter 1 John had wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Now in Chapter 3, John says, “everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself.” What does that mean. What is the hope? First of all, Biblical hope is not like a lottery ticket. I hope I’ll win. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but a verifiable certainty. The hope is in Jesus who rose from the dead, and because he rose from the dead, we too will have a resurrection like his. Not because of ourselves, but because Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. Meaning, he took our sins onto himself. He took our punishment. And because of that, we are able to live like Jesus even now. Our relationship with sin has changed that dramatically. But ask the man on the street what is sin. He would say, anything that is fattening and fun. John defines it as “lawlessness”, or having no law, or rejecting the idea that God can give me rules for my life. I don’t care what you say. I’m the CEO. I’m the captain of the ship. I’m the president. I do what I want, when I want, end of discussion. That is what sin is. It is a stubborn rejection of God. But John says, “You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.” In other words, Jesus hates sins. He despises sins, because of what it does to our lives. He hates it so much he has come to take it all away. 1 John 3:5 echoes John 1:29 when John the Baptist said, “See, behold, Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” That is who Jesus is. He takes sin away. He takes away its guilt. Its shame. And someday soon he will take it away completely. But what is he getting at when he said, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” It could be interpreted that Christians don’t sin. But the theological word for that interpretation is Bologna. We sin. We sin much. We sin daily. We confess we are poor miserable sinners as we began the service. But what John is saying is a person who lives in Jesus, who sees Jesus, who experiences Jesus, sin is not our identity. You might still sin, but sin does not define you. Your relationship with Jesus means your relationship with sin has changed. Jesus hates sin… therefore I hate sin. Martin Luther said “we are sinners, and now and then we fall into sin; but if a true Christian falls, he soon comes back, turns about, and fights against sin, lest it burst forth into a stumbling block for his neighbor. Although it is difficult to avoid being wounded in war, it is a disgrace to yield.” We are to confess sin, renounce sin, despise sin, turn from sin, but never get used to it. John says, “dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.” When your relationship with Jesus changes, your relationship with God, your relationship with the world, and your relationship with the future, and your relationship with sin changes… for the better. Of course we all know hard change is. Who wants change… I do! Who wants to change, everyone puts there hand down. Now, who wants to lead the change? That’s a good way to vacate a room. I don’t want to change, I want you to change. That’s a good way to destroy your marriage. It is a good way to destroy any relationship. Change, not fake change not superficial change, it is God’s gift to us today. Where do we start? How about with these words “Thy will be done.” “You are the potter… we are the clay.” Mold me and shape me, at your will. I will go where you lead and I will sit in the seat you have provided.

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