Christ Sends his Preachers Out - Satan's Demons are Driven Out!

Pentecost 8 + July 12 & 15, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin                                                     Download PDF

Text: Mark 6:7-13

Hymn: O Christ, Our True and Only Light (CW, 569)

On October 2nd, 1843, Saint John’s was officially founded.  But our congregation was active well before that date.  Our church founders actually gathered for worship several years before 1843.  But they did not have their own pastor.  Instead, so-called “circuit riders” served them.  These circuit riders usually came from European mission societies.  These societies recruited and trained preachers.  Then they sent them off to America.

Now, these circuit riders went on horseback from one small community to another.  Wherever they stopped, these frontier preachers held a worship service, taught catechism, baptized newborns, and performed marriages and funerals.  But they would only spend a few days in one place.  Then they would be off to the next village and do the same thing there for a few days.  They didn’t get paid much, if at all.  But, whenever a circuit rider showed up, it was expected that someone would give him a place to stay and meals to eat.

That sounds a lot like what our text describes.  Listen again: "Calling the Twelve to him, [Jesus] sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: 'Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts… Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.'  They went out and preached that people should repent." (v 7-13)

 This mission trip took place early in Christ’s ministry.  So, the twelve disciples were raw recruits.  They did not have thorough training.  But they did have what every preacher needs. They knew Jesus.  They had God’s Word. They had authority to preach on behalf of Jesus.  These mission teams even had the power over Satan himself.  God’s Word shows us: Christ sends his preachers out - Satan's demons are driven out.

Now, if you translate the English words, “sent out,” into ancient Greek, and then translate them back again into modern English, you would get the word ApostlesApostle literally means, “one who is sent out.”  In the narrow definition of that word, it refers only to these twelve men in our text.  

But in a wider sense of the term, “apostle” can refer to any church worker whom Jesus sends out to do his work. These workers include pastors, missionaries, teachers, and anyone who speaks the Word of God to others.

In the widest sense of the term, “apostle,” can mean any Christian.  That’s because Jesus has called every believer to faith.  Part of believing in Jesus is also proclaiming Jesus to others.  Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “I believed, therefore I have spoken.” (II Cor 4:13)

So, you have faith in Jesus.  That makes you an apostle.  Like the apostles in our text, you might not have extensive training. But you do have the most important training and the most basic authority of all.  You know Jesus and you have God’s Word.  The power of God’s Word does for you what it did for those twelve new apostles on their first mission trip.  Our text said, "They went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them." (v 12-13)

Proclaiming God’s Word gives you power to drive out demons. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  But as exciting as that is, not many church members are excited to do it.  Ask the typical member of a Lutheran Church, “Are you excited to share the good news of Jesus with other people?” This is a typical answer: “Well, evangelism is important.  Our church should share the good news of Jesus in our community. But I don’t feel comfortable talking about Jesus with other people.  Evangelism is important, but it’s not my thing.”

Well, to be blunt, that is just cowardly, excuse making.  It fails to take Jesus at his word. It fails to trust Jesus.  But Jesus calls us to trust him. Jesus said to his first apostles, "Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” (v 8-9)

Jesus told his apostles to trust him for their food, clothing, and shelter while they were going from town to town preaching God’s Word.  Now, certainly, you already have food, clothing, and shelter.  Jesus provides that for you.  But the point is this:  to share Jesus is to dare to trust in Jesus. 

That lack of daring trust is a demon that Jesus needs to drive out of us. Yes, we fail to trust the power of God’s Word.  We fail to trust Christ’s promise that he is with us always.  We fail to trust God’s promise that his Word does the work.  We don’t need to dress up God’s Word with our fancy speaking.  All we need to do speak his Word.  God does everything else. Jesus even said in the Gospel of Matthew, "do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. " (Matt 10:19-20)

 So, to share God’s Word with others, we need to trust Jesus and his promises.  We also need to stop worrying about how people will react to our message.  Fear is another demon that Jesus needs to drive out of us.  That fear-demon makes us think, I don’t want to share God’s Word because I am afraid of rejection.  What if somebody doesn’t like what I say?  What if I lose a friend or alienate a relative because I talk about Jesus too much?

Well, certainly, people can and people do reject you for speaking the good news of Jesus.  Jesus even knew that was going to happen to his apostles on that first mission journey.  He told them, "if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." (v 11)  When it comes to accepting or rejecting God’s Word, it’s not the judgment of others that matters.  It’s your judgment of them that matters.  “To shake the dust off your feet when you leave”  means you are saying to them, I did my duty. I told you the good news of Jesus.  I gave you the only message that gives faith in Jesus, and faith gives you forgiveness and eternal life in heaven.  If you don’t listen to me and the message of Jesus, you are only dooming yourself to eternal damnation.

So quit worrying about what other people think about you or say to you.  Quit being afraid of that.  And start focusing on what really matters.  Give your full attention to sharing that good news of Jesus with others. And appreciate why this work is so vitally important.  Our text says, "They went out and preached that people should repent.  They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them."(v 12-13)

 Now, today we do not have that miraculous power of healing.  But we do have the power to help people.  We can generous to the poor.  We can be kind, friendly, and understanding the hurting, the lonely, and the discouraged.  But healing the sick and helping the poor were never and are never the main work of the church.  Preaching that people should repent – that will always be the work of the church, whether it’s Bible times, the year 1843, or the year 2018.  The proclamation of God’s Word leads people to repent of their sins. The good news of Jesus and his holy, precious blood turns repentance into faith. Faith brings forgiveness of sins, a new life of holy living, and the gift of eternal life in heaven.  In other words, preaching the repentance of sins and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus—this, and this alone drives out Satan and all his demons.

So whenever you fail to do your duty of sharing God’s Word—and you and I fail so many times—but when you fail, drive out those demons of laziness, fear, and excuse making.  Drive them out by repenting of your sins.  Drive out those wicked henchmen of Satan by trusting in Jesus.  Jesus forgives you.  Jesus empowers you. Jesus will always bless your work. So, trust in Jesus. Then speak about Jesus.  May God give all of us this spirit of faith and power.

Amen.

We Are A For Prophet Organization

Pentecost 7 + July 5 & 8, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin                                                        Download PDF

Text: Mark 6:1-6

Hymn: Lord Jesus Christ, The Church's Head (CW, 536)

 St. John’s Lutheran church does not pay property taxes or business taxes.  That’s because we are a non-profit organization.  Even though we collect money, spend money, and have money in the bank, we do not exist for the purpose of making money.  We do not exist for the sake of profit.

But—please pardon the obvious play on words—we do exist for the sake of Prophet.  That is, we exist for the sake of the Prophet, Jesus Christ.  Just like a business wants to receive as much money as possible, we want to receive as much of Jesus as possible through his Word and Sacrament.  Just as a business wants to increase its profits by selling its product to as many people as possible, we want to give Jesus away to as many of our friends, relatives, and neighbors as possible.  Just as a healthy business has money in the bank, we want to keep the bank of our hearts filled to the brim with Jesus and his grace, and his forgiveness, and his power.  So, although we are a non-profit, P-R-O-F-I-T, organization, yet, at the same time, WE ARE A FOR PROPHET ORGANIZATION.  We are for Jesus Christ, God’s greatest prophet, our Savior, and God’s one and only Son.

But not everyone saw Jesus this way.  Our text shows how the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth gave Jesus mixed reviews.  Our text says, "Jesus…went to his hometown... When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him." (v. 1-3)

On the one hand, the people of Nazareth gave Jesus a “thumbs up.”  They were impressed with his sermon.  They recognized that he possessed uncommon wisdom. They marveled at his miracles. 

But on the other hand, as Mark tells us, they took offense at him.  They rejected Jesus because he was just a local boy.  Perhaps they were thinking, Jesus isn’t so special.  We knew him when he was in diapers. Yeah, he was a good kid, but he wasn’t anything special.  And we know his family, too.  They are nice.  But they are nothing special, either.  So, where does Jesus get this idea that he is so great? Why does he think he’s so wonderful? He’s no better than we are.  So, Jesus can find another place to do his work. We don’t want him.

The people in Nazareth rejected Jesus because of the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”   They were so familiar with Jesus they could not recognize Christ’s true nature as their Lord and Savior.  They only saw him as an arrogant hometown kid who thought too much of himself.

Unfortunately, a version of this contempt can easily infect you and me.  That’s because most of us are very familiar with Jesus.   Many of us have heard about Jesus ever since we were little kids in Sunday school.  We heard about Jesus in Lutheran Elementary School and catechism class.  We hear about Jesus every time we come to church.  Sad to say, our familiarity with Jesus can lead us to say, I’m kind of sick of hearing about Jesus this and Jesus that.  Yes, yes, I know Jesus died to pay for all my sins.  He’s my only Savior.  But I hear that all the time.  Can’t we get a little variety?  Can’t I come to church and learn how to use God’s Word to manage my business, improve my self-discipline, win friends, and influence people?

Like the people of Nazareth, we can know Jesus so well, we can grow tired of hearing about his love, his forgiveness, and how he rescues us from sin, death, and the devil.  But this contempt for receiving the abundant blessings of Jesus just doesn’t make sense. 

Let’s use the world of business as an illustration.  Let’s say a business is doing really well.  For the last few years, its sales and profits have been increasing dramatically.  Now, do you think the business owners would say, Gee, I think we are making too much money.  I wish our business would start losing money.  It’s really getting boring to hear about how our business is so successful.

Of course, that’s ridiculous.  No business owner would ever say that.  Sure, a business owner might complain about long hours, unreliable employees, and unfair taxation.  But a business owner would never complain about earning a profit.  That’s why businesses exist - to make money.

Well, like a business exists for profit - the money kind - so also, we exist for Prophet - the Jesus kind. Now, like a business owner might complain about hours, employees, and taxes, we sometimes complain about things that go along with being members of the Holy Christian Church.  We can say, I don’t like that particular hymn or liturgy.  Sometimes the preacher gets a little long winded.  I don’t like kids fussing in church and I don’t like how people talk too much before church.  Sure, there are things about coming to church that you might not like.  But just like a business owner deals with the unpleasant parts of a business in order to make a profit, we use our Christian faith and our Christian maturity to keep the focus on what we are really all about.  We keep our focus on Jesus Christ, our only Savior from sin.

So, in faith and in Christian maturity we say, I know my church is not perfect.  And I know it’s not always easy being a Christian.  But I can deal with the imperfections of church life.  I can put up with the things I don’t like because I need Jesus.  I need to hear his Word that builds my faith.  I need to confess my sins that burden my conscience.  I need to receive Christ’s forgiveness through his called and ordained minister of the Gospel. I need the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.  I need God’s peace to fill my heart, and soul, and my everyday life.  I need to pour out all my cares, all my fears, all my sorrows, and all my delights—I need to pour out my heart to my heavenly Father in prayer, through his Son, Jesus Christ.  And I need to have that mysterious but very real union with Jesus when I receive his sacrament of Holy Communion.  I need the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I need to express my faith in hymns of praise. And I need hear that final blessing to get me through another weak of fighting my own sinful nature and doing battle against this sin-filled world.

Yes, you and I need Jesus.  We are a for prophet organization.  And the last part of our text shows us why Jesus is, indeed, so special and so necessary, even though we do sometimes take him for granted. Our text reads, "Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.'  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village." (v. 4-6)

After his hometown rejected him, Jesus was hurt.  But he felt hurt for them.  Jesus continued to care about his hometown.  He still performed a few miracles there.  And he did not let their rejection stop him from his ministry.  He kept on "[going] around teaching from village to village." (v. 6)

That’s what Jesus still does with you and me.  Even when we do not appreciate Jesus as much as we should, he still cares for us.  Even when we do not hunger and thirst for his grace and forgiveness, he still offers us the full measure of his love in Word and sacrament.  Even though we are not always so eager to hear his Word, or eager to come to church, Jesus is still here inviting us into his house for his blessings.  Jesus still washes us clean in his holy precious blood.  Jesus still calls us to find rest and peace in his presence.  Jesus still promises that he will be with us always and bring us safely to our heavenly home.  That’s why we are a "For-Prophet Organization." We are for Jesus because Jesus is always for us.

Amen.

Faith Sees God's Unseen Glory

Pentecost 3 + June 7 & 10, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin                                                   Download PDF

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

Hymn: Lord, When Your Glory I Shall See (CW 219)

If you look at identical twins, it is easy to see they are related. If you look at regular siblings, it might be easy to tell they are related.  Or you might have to look closely to see the family resemblance. If you look at adopted siblings - especially if they have different ethnicities - then the only way to know if they are siblings is if someone tells you.  You can’t see their family relation just by looking at them.

That’s what Jesus says in our Gospel Lesson.  Jesus uses his genetic family to talk about his spiritual family.  Jesus says, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:31-34)

Just like you cannot tell if adopted siblings belong to the same family by outward appearance, so it is with the family of Jesus.  That’s because the thing that makes you a brother or sister of Jesus is not external. It’s inside you. It’s doing God’s will.  It’s faith. You can’t see faith.

Well, just as you can’t see faith, there are some things that only faith can see.  In our epistle lesson Saint Paul tells us some things we can only see by God’s gift of faith.  God’s Word tells us: faith sees God's unseen glory.

The first unseen, glorious, thing that faith sees is the power of God’s Word. This Word of God actually creates faith in the first place. Saint Paul says, "With [a] spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." (v. 13-15)

God’s Word brings glory to God.  It creates faith by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection from the dead.  When sinners hear that good news, God’s Word creates faith so they believe that Jesus is their Savior. Then believers glorify God by the same faith that saves them. And all this happens by the hidden, unseen, yet glorious power of God’s Word.

The invisible power God’s Word works a bit like a magnet.  I can make a nail rise out of my hand into the air.  Without touching it, I can make that nail defy gravity.  Of course, I do it with a magnet.  Once the nail comes under the pull of the magnet, the nail rises out of my hand and attaches to the magnet.

Well, just as a nail can’t raise itself, we sinners can’t rise out of sin, unbelief and spiritual death.  Spiritually speaking, we are dead as a doornail.  But then God spoke his Word to us.  The power of God’s Word lifted us from the grip of unbelief and the grasp of Satan. God’s Word attached us to Jesus.

Now, why do you need faith in the power of God’s Word? Quite often, you want to bring someone to Jesus.  You say, I want to share my faith with my unchurched friend.  I want my sister to straighten out her life and act like a Christian.  I want our church to grow and get more members.  So, you tell others how great our church is.  You beg and plead for your relatives to change their wicked ways. You offer people your friendship if someone, anyone will just accept the invitation to be a Christian.

But those methods don’t work.

They can’t work because those methods don’t contain God’s Word.  Cajoling, threatening, and buttering people up do not offer God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Only God’s Word does that.  Only God’s Word connects people to Jesus and his holy precious blood. If you want someone to come to faith or grow in faith, use the magnet of God’s Word.  That gospel of Jesus Christ contains the invisible power of grace to create faith, to change lives, and to save souls for eternity. 

Of course, it takes faith to trust the unseen power of God’s Word because God’s Word does not follow logical formulas or mathematical equations.  But make no mistake about it. God’s Word works.  God’s Word brings people to faith.  God’s Word and God’s gift of faith also allow us to see something else that’s invisible.  Faith allows us to see God’s invisible reward of glory. 

Concerning this invisible reward of glory Paul says, "...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (v. 16-18) 

Paul basically says, Don’t look at the aches and the pains and the disappointments of today.  Instead, look beyond them to heaven’s glory.  That will give you strength.  That will give you hope.  The guarantee of heaven’s glory will give you joy no matter what pain you suffer here on earth.

Paul also gives us a reason for not letting our troubles and pains bother us.  Again, Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (v. 17)  In other words, once we reach heaven, God will more than make up for all the trouble we experience on this earth.

To illustrate: some companies contribute to their employees’ retirement plans.  But imagine working for a company that threw money into your retirement account every time something bad happened at work.  Every time the photocopier failed, the company paid $5,000 to your retirement account.  Every time a customer was rude to you, the company put $25,000 into your account.  Whenever your boss was too demanding, you got an extra $50,000.  Every time you had to work overtime, they threw another $100,000 into your account.  Now, if a company really did that, everybody would want to work there.  And nobody would complain when bad things happened. That’s because you knew that whenever something bad did happen, you would get even more benefits at retirement.

Well, in a way, that’s what God has promised us. "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (v.17)  Every time we suffer here on earth, God will more than make up for it when we retire to heaven’s glory.  It’s as if God were saying, “For every time your job makes it difficult to practice your faith, I will give you ten years of stress free living in heaven.  For every time you patiently endure verbal abuse, I will give 100 years of pleasant conversation with your loved ones in heaven.  Every time someone mocks you for your faith, I will give you 1,000,000 years of perfect health.”

Of course, that’s not exactly how it works. 

You can’t do the math that way because heaven is eternal.  Every blessing of heaven lasts forever, not just a few years and even longer than a million years.  We must never get the idea that we earn heaven by suffering here on earth. Jesus already earned heaven for us by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.  Furthermore, the “rewards” of heavenly glory are not rewards we earn. They are gifts of God’s grace. That means you also cannot think, If I make myself suffer a lot on earth, I’ll be that much better off in heaven.

No, God did not give us promises of glory to indulge the twisted schemes of our sinful nature.  He gave us these promises to comfort us when we suffer.  He comforts us now so that when troubles do come, we won’t complain.  Instead, we will say, My human eyes can’t see heaven’s glory now.  All I can see and feel are the aches and pains of life.  But God has promised me a glorious future of joy.  So, I can’t wait until I get to heaven.  I can’t wait for the glorious joy of eternal life.  Now, may God use his powerful Word to bless you with a faith that sees God’s glory and looks forward to everlasting life in heaven.  God bless you with this faith, for Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

 

The Triune God is the Trifecta of Your Salvation

Festival of the Holy Trinity + May 24 & 27, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin                            Download PDF

Text: John 3:1-17

Hymn: We All Believe in One True God (CW 271)

Justify. I’m not talking religion or theology. I’m talking horse-racing. Justify is the name of the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. If Justify wins the Belmont Stakes on June 9, he will accomplish something very rare and difficult. He will win the Triple Crown. In the ninety-nine years of the Triple Crown’s history, only twelve horses have won all three races in the same year. Only twelve percent of the time does a horse win the Triple Crown.

Justify.  Now I’m talking religion and theology. The Formula of Concord, defines justify this way:  "[It] means to declare righteous and free from sins and from eternal punishment of these sins on account of the righteousness of Christ which God reckons to faith.” (III.17). 

To put it another way: to justify someone means that God declares a sinner "not guilty" because, by God’s grace alone, the sinner receives Christ’s perfect holiness as his own through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.

Or maybe, we can put it in even simpler words: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (v 16) 

Perhaps you noticed in all three definitions of justification that all three persons of the Triune God were at work. God, the Father, declares the verdict of “not guilty.” God, the Son, Jesus Christ, gives his righteous and holy life as the payment for sin. God, the Holy Spirit, creates faith and by faith the sinner receives the holiness and innocence of Jesus.  

So again, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all do their part to save you and me and any sinner. And that’s better than a horse winning the triple crown. After all, a horse is a horse. And a race is only a race. But eternal salvation means that you escape the torments of hell you deserve because of your sins. Eternal life means that forever and ever you will always be perfect—healthy, holy, and happy without ever being able to lose this perfection. The good news is that our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have won the Triple Crown of your salvation. So there’s not a twelve percent chance that you might be saved. Your salvation is one hundred percent accomplished by our Triune God. God’s Word tells us:  the Triune God is the trifecta of your salvation.

Now, the mystery of the nature of God is beyond normal definition. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three Gods but only one God. This one God is three distinct persons yet only one Divine Being. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully God but the true God is only one Being. Again, the nature of the Triune God is a logical impossibility. But, because we’re talking about God, it is a certain reality.

But not only is God amazing in who he is, he is also amazing in what he does. To appreciate our Triune God, let’s take a closer look at how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each does his unique to justify us.

First, God the Father loved us. This is no ordinary love. God’s love surpasses any kind of love humans can ever give to each other.  Saint John tells us in his first letter: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (I John 4:10)

 Consider God’s love by comparing what God gave to how you give. Sometimes you give gifts to your friends and family because you love them you and they love you. Sometimes you give out of a sense of duty. You give to charity because you feel an obligation to help your fellow human. 

But God loved us for deeper reasons than friendly love or a sense of duty. God loved us even though we humans are by nature enemies of God and rebel against his rules. Saint Paul tells us in Romans, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)  So God did not wait for us to be so loveable before he loved us. Even when he should have hated you and cursed you, God loved you.

Pure, immense, unchangeable love—that’s why God gave his one and only Son to be your Savior.  And what a price God paid to prove his love to you and to gain your salvation. That price was the life of his pure and holy Son.

Again, compare that to the prices you pay. You pay a high price in terms of money for housing, your car, your education, or your medical needs. You pay a high price in terms of time and energy to succeed at your job or at school or in a relationship. And in some cases, you might even pay the ultimate price of sacrificing your life to save a loved one.

But even if you did surrender your own life, that still does not compare to the price of Christ’s life. That’s because your life is still the life of a sinner. Even if you gave all you had—even if you sacrificed your life, your life is worthless when it comes paying for sin. But Christ’s life is different. Christ’s life is worth everything. That’s because Christ was and is a perfect human being.  He was and is the perfect Son of God, and true God himself. Saint Peter tells us, "it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life…, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (I Pet. 1:18-19)

So the perfect, holy, sinless Son of God paid the price to save you. Therefore, your salvation is paid in full.  You never have to wonder, Does God really forgive all my sins?  What about those big sins?  What about those sins I keep doing over and over again?  Does God forgive me even though he knows that I don’t really struggle that hard to resist committing my favorite sins?  Will God really save such a hypocritical, habitual sinner like me?

Well, you never have to doubt your forgiveness or worry about your salvation. That’s because God loves you with a limitless love. On top of that, Jesus paid for every one of your sins with his holy, precious life. But there’s also another reason why you don’t have to worry about your forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Holy Spirit has given you faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, faith in Jesus Christ as your only Savior is absolutely necessary to get to heaven. Jesus himself tells us, "whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-17)

But how do you get faith? Is it your decision to believe? Do you have to prove to God that you deserve faith? Thankfully, the answer to both those questions is, no. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us how the Holy Spirit gives you faith: "No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (v 5-6)

In other words, the Holy Spirit gives birth to your faith when you are baptized by water and the Spirit. Or, as Saint Paul says in our epistle lesson, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Rom. 8:16) In other words, the Holy Spirit, who is God and cannot lie, testifies in God the Father’s courtroom that you have faith. By faith you are God’s child. Since you are God’s child, you have a place in God’s house. That means you are part of the Holy Christian Church on earth. It also means you will inherit eternal life in heaven.

So Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all do their work to give us a victory more impressive than any horse winning the Triple Crown. By God’s grace, by the life and death of Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith you have won the crown of life. You have won the triple victory over sin, death, and the devil. You have God’s blessings on this earth and everlasting paradise in heaven.  And that victory does not depend on you. Your Triune God has already done it all for you.  Therefore, to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be praise and thanks and honor and glory forever and ever.

Amen.