November 30, 2009

The Star of Jacob - Nov 29, 2009

Grace and Advent peace be multiplied unto you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Our brief text this evening is a prophesy from the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 24, verse 17, as follows:

"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24:17 NKJV).

This is the Word of God.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name which is above every Name, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Stars are interesting. None more so than the star that powers our solar system, the sun. Did you know that about half of Americans aren't aware that the sun is a star? Did you know that the temperature of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but that a lightning bolt is three times hotter than that? Did you know that the next nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is about 25 trillion miles away? To put it in perspective, if our sun were the size of the dot over the letter "i", then the closest star would be another, similarly-sized dot ten miles away!

Ever since God created them, people have looked up at the stars and been fascinated. And for good reason. Like so much of God's creation, the stars are beautiful. And their orderliness and predictability reinforce our faith that God truly is in control, not just of my life, but in control of the whole universe. God truly has a plan for the universe, and a plan for your life, as well. And from eternity, the biggest part of that plan was to provide you with a Savior from sin. Maybe that's the reason that the Bible, in the Book of Numbers, speaks of Jesus as a Star. This Advent, we're looking into some of the beautiful names that the ancient prophets used of the coming Savior. Our season theme is, "The Name Which is Above Every Name," and today we consider a very special name:

I. A Star to guide you.
II. A Star to govern you.
III. A Star to save you.

Some years ago we had a midweek Lenten series with the unusual theme, "Sermons Preached by Jesus' Enemies." It focused on texts where people who were enemies of Christ said things about Him that were profoundly true. Like the time that the High Priest Caiaphas said, It is expedient that one Man should die for the people." Or when Pilate's wife said, Have thou nothing to do with that just man." Well, today's text is similar. In it, one of the bitterest enemies of God's people - in fact a man who was hired to curse God's people - instead involuntarily pronounced a wonderful blessing upon them. He promised them a Savior!

The man's name was Balaam, the son of Beor. He was a Gentile seer, or prophet. It all happened when Israel had just about come to the end of their Forty Years' wandering in the wilderness. The events of our text take place shortly before the death of Moses and the crossing of the Jordan. Israel was encamped in the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan River. Israel had recently conquered two kings east of the Jordan: Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. King Balak of the Moabites was next in line, and he was understandably nervous. So he sent for Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam didn't want to do it, but King Balak insisted. A funny thing happened, though, when Balaam tried to curse Israel - out of his mouth came blessing instead. For of course, God was in control, as always. To the king’s horror, he heard Balaam prophesy victory for Israel and defeat for her enemies (including Moab). It was an important prophesy, and heralded Israel’s successful conquest of the promised land. But then, abruptly, in the middle of this short-term prophesy about Israel, God allowed Balaam to look out far into the future, to view the advent of the most important Person in the history of the world. Balaam said, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel."

I see Him, but not now. Balaam uttered this prophesy around 1400 B.C. Can you imagine that? Fourteen hundred years before the star appeared over Bethlehem, this heathen prophet saw the Savior. But the vision was dim. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. Much time would pass before the advent of the Star of Jacob. But already at this ancient date, in fact from the beginning of time, God had set the planets and stars in motion. Everything in the universe was ordered with but one object in mind: the coming of the promised Savior. Then, when everything was just right, when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. -- Gal 4:4-5.

A Star shall come out of Jacob. Why is the coming Christ called the "Star of Jacob"? Well, Jesus was a descended from Jacob, or Israel, of course. But why a star? Why did God use that specific term? Think for a moment about what stars do. One of the most important things they do is guide people. Since ancient times, mariners have navigated according to the stars, using the stars to guide them unerringly to distant destinations. The Star of Jacob is a Star to guide you.

You think astrology is big today? You should have seen the ancient near east! Many ancient cultures bowed down and worshiped the stars as idols, so much so that Isaiah mocks them in chapter 47 when he says, You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels; Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, And the monthly prognosticators Stand up and save you From what shall come upon you Israel was specifically forbidden to rely upon the stars to guide them. With this one exception - God promised, through Balaam, to send the Star of Jacob. This Star they were to pay attention to. They were watch carefully for the coming of this Star, for this Star would guide them.

And for centuries, wise men watched and waited for the advent of the Star. The Star that would guide them and save them. By the time 1400 years had passed, they were still waiting. Many false messiahs arose, the most famous of whom was Simon bar Kochba, which means "Son of the Star" These people all knew that ancient prophesy of Balaam - it was common knowledge. They were all looking for the Star. Do you remember what happened after the birth of Christ, when the three wise men showed up in Jerusalem? They said "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. -- Mt 2:2-3. The whole country was stirred up, and no wonder! Because they all knew Balaam's prophesy about the Star. And they knew it meant the coming of the Messiah. They departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. -- Mt 2:9-10.

What about you? Are you guided by the Star of Jacob? Does it make you rejoice with exceedingly great joy? Which seems more real to you, Jesus Christ or the stars you see when you look up into the night sky? In fact, they're both equally real. But even Christians often act as if that weren't true. A couple of weeks ago I heard a fellow named Aaron McDowell giving a presentation and he said something interesting. He said that a lot of people - even Christians - act as if religion was a different kind of truth than science. Like it belongs in a different category, the category of feelings and opinions. They say things like, "Oh, you have your religious beliefs and they're valid for you, but I have different beliefs and they're equally valid. Maybe we're both right!" Have you noticed that no one ever says that about physics or geometry or math? ("Oh you have your math, it's true for you, but my math is different!") The Bible says Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever! Jesus is our pole star.. He guides us; He's the criterion by which we judge everything else in our lives. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." It's time we Christians started being guided by the Star of Jacob. It's time we realized that the Word of our Savior is more profoundly true than the Law of gravity, or two plus two equals four. Speaking of the Bible Peter says, we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. -- 2 Pet 1:19. Heed the Star of Jacob! It is a Star to guide you.

Secondly, the Star of Jacob is a Star to govern you. The text says, A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel. The word "scepter" is interesting. It also means "staff" or "rod." You remember the 23rd Psalm? "Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me"? Same word. When it is used of a king, it means the mighty scepter that the king holds in his hand, and it's significant in two ways.

Of course, it's a symbol of authority. The possessor of the scepter has the right and authority to govern. And of no one was this more true than the coming Christ. In Genesis 49, the dying Jacob referred to the coming Christ as Shiloh, "the One who brings peace," when he prophesied: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. -- Gen 49:10. When Jesus arrived that prophesy was fulfilled. Jesus said, All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. -- Mt 28:18.

But the scepter was also symbolic of something else - of the power to crush and defeat the enemies of the king. That's why the word scepter is related to the words "smite" and "smite." Psalm 2 says of the enemies of the Lord, You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." -- Psa 2:9 NIV. Do you think of your Lord Jesus this way? You should! For he is your King, and one duty of a king is to fight for his people and defeat the enemies of His people. All the difficulties you encounter in life, every hostile force that is arrayed against you, must contend not just with you, but with you and your King: the Star of Jacob, the Scepter of Israel! Think about that. That balances the fight out a little bit, doesn't it? In fact it makes you indestructible. If God be for us, Paul asks, who can be against us? The Star of Jacob is governing us!

Which brings us to the final point. The Star of Jacob is a Star to save you. I read an exciting story about a man who was hunting elk in a wilderness area and got lost. He was miles from anywhere. He had a compass, but it had been broken in a fall. He knew the rudiments of navigation, but the problem was that the weather was overcast, so he couldn't see the sun or the stars. After several days he was out of food and nearly at the point of exhaustion, when finally, one evening, the cloud cover lifted and there before him was the bright North Star. He knew immediately what it meant: he was saved. For to the north lay the road he needed to reach. This man was literally saved by a star.

In a very real sense, you've been saved by a star, too! By the Star of Jacob. That Star that was predicted untold centuries ago, that star that shone over the fields of Bethlehem, the Star of Jacob, has guided you too to the cradle of your Savior. You were baptized into His name. You heard His good news, the news that, though you are a sinner, yet through faith in Christ your sins are forgiven. You saw the promise of the Messiah fulfilled when Jesus suffered and died on the cross outside Jerusalem. By doing so He atoned once and for all for the sins of the whole world, as John reminds us in comforting terms, If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. - 1 Joh 2 :1-2.

Are there sins on your conscience? Misdeeds you've committed that return to trouble your mind and disturb your thoughts? Banish those thoughts! For you have a Savior. Let every twinkling star in the sky remind you that your Star of Jacob has come. He has come to save you. He has come with His atoning sacrifice to cover all your sins and to deliver you, holy and righteous, to the very gates of eternal paradise! Because of Christ, you too can confidently say with the Apostle Paul, The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." -- 2 Tim 4:18.

Again this Christmas season we will see that old saying - a slogan we've heard so often that by now that it has become rather trite and cliché: Wise men still seek Him. But like a lot of clichés, it nevertheless conceals a profound truth. Jesus is the Star of Jacob. He is the Star that guides us, the Star that governs us, and the Star that saves us. And it's true: wise men still seek Him. May God grant to each of us the wisdom to seek him, to trust in Him, and to worship Him all our lives long.


November 25, 2009

Our Daily Bread - Nov 26, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


Happy Thanksgiving. May your hearts be truly thankful. Happy, content and fully conscious of the Great God who is the source of all good things. Amen.

Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Give us this day our daily bread”. Martin Luther explained this part of the Lord’s Prayer by saying,

“God gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers, but we pray in this petition that He would teach us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving” (Sydow Catechism).

Of course, we understand that by saying “daily bread” we mean a lot more than just slices of Wonder Bread. By “daily bread” we mean everything that we need for health and life.

So, how in the world are we going to get out of here today? I mean, we’re here to thank God for all His blessings. But, we could be here for hours just NAMING the things included in our “daily bread”.

How about we just focus on ONE of God’s gifts this Thanksgiving Day. How about we consider our literal “daily bread”?

Suppose for a moment, that when we prayed for our daily bread we actually meant a SINGLE LOAF of real, wheat bread?

(Pastor places one loaf of Franz white bread onto the pulpit)

Now, this bread may seem to simple. Too meager a blessing to be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meditation. But if this bread could talk, what a story it would tell! What a succession of God’s wonders it would share!

So, let’s listen to the bread this morning. Let’s sit back and hear its life-story. Let’s see the gracious hand of God in the life of a single loaf of bread.

To begin this biography, we have to travel back in time. Out of the 21st century. Away from cell-phones and email accounts. On the winds of time we must float back long before America was settled. Long before Jesus was born, past the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Back past Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Back beyond the great flood of Noah. Back, even past Adam and Eve into the void of eternity.

Whoa! You say, where are we going? I thought we where reading the biography of this loaf of bread, not the biography of God! But we all have ancestors. Every place a history. Every thing an origin. And here in the darkness of eternity lies the origin of this loaf of bread.

Just wait for a moment.

There! Did you see it? God just created the matter of the universe, and in it all the material needed for soil and substance, for water and wheat.

You didn’t see it? Well, that’s because He hasn’t made light yet. That should happen momentarily.

Yes, there now we can see everything clearly. Though it’s all quite a mess right now. As the Bible said, Now the earth is formless and empty (Genesis 1:2). Only chaos here. But soon, God will order this matter into a universe that we’ll recognize.

On the second day God will make the sky, separating the water below from the water above. And on the third day He will draw the water below away from the muck and mire of earth and create a separation between land and sea. And when that is finished, on that third day, with the soil all moist and tilled, God will PLANT for the first time.

Let’s listen to His voice. He says…

“…Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds…” (Genesis 1:11 NIV).

And it happened. Plants of all kind. Trees weighed down with delicious fruit. Peach trees. Pomegranates. Oranges. Pears. Over there, are rows of standing corn and…

…fields of grass?

Yes. Fields of grass. But not the kind that cattle graze on or that children play on. These fields are full of wheat grass. And here is where we find the great grandfather grain from which our loaf of bread has descended.

This loaf is from God, because He CREATED wheat! But it is also a gift from God because He GAVE WHEAT TO ADAM AND EVE as food. God said to them…

“…I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).

Lots of things have vitamins and minerals. Things like dirt and gravel. Rocks and mud. But these aren’t food. Wheat is food, because God gave it to mankind as food.

At some point today we’re going to want to go home and eat some of our own bread. So, we’ll have to skip over the generations of wheat that came between the first wheat and the wheat that made this loaf.

The wheat that produced this loaf of bread was grown in either Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota. It is a variety called “Hard Red” wheat. It’s prized for it’s high protein content which enables the baker’s loaves to stand up tall instead of falling down.

Now, the hard red in this loaf might have been “spring wheat” which is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. But it might have been “winter wheat”. Winter wheat is planted in September or December. It sprouts up only to freeze solid. It spends the winter under a cover of snow. Then in the spring it sprouts up again, producing a crop that is ready for harvest by early July.

Either way, the farmer who planted it spent a lot of time in a tractor. First tilling, then planting. And then, he had to do the hardest part. He had to wait. Man may plant and water and watch. But God has to makes the growth. It’s like Jesus says,

“…A man scatters seed on the ground. 27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27 NIV).

If it’s a slow year, a farmer might be tempted to tug on the crops in his field, but it wouldn’t actually do any good. God must bring the harvest and makes it abundant.

The grain harvested for this loaf of bread was harvested in a highly technological way. Wheat is no longer cut by blade and hand. Nor is it cut by horse-pulled machinery. Nowadays, great big machines called “combines” roar through the fields day and night. First they cut the stalks of wheat. Then they breaking up the heads of grain separating the useless chaff from the valuable wheat kernels. When this is done, the combine blows the chaff away and shoots the wheat kernels into a bin.

This brings in a lot of other lines of ancestry for this loaf of bread . We could look at the history of metal, for a combine isn’t made of wood. Or the history of rubber, for a combine won’t cross the field without tires or treads. We could look into the history of the combustion engine. A combine can burn up to $500 dollars of gas a day bringing in the harvest!

We could even study rocket science and the history of satellites! The combine that harvested the grain for this loaf was guided through the field by a global positioning system. This ensured maximum fuel efficiency and made sure none of the crop was left behind. To make sure that the grain wasn’t too wet for harvesting, the combine even had a sensor that monitored the moisture content as the grain was gathered.

Each one of these complex systems introduces another line of ancestry that leads to THIS loaf of bread.

And all of these innovations and inventions were possible because God made man different than the animals. From Genesis 1…

“26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth…” (Genesis 1:29 NIV).

And not only did God give mankind the capacity for wisdom, God also GIVES mankind knowledge and wisdom.

And from Daniel 2…

“…Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning” (Daniel 2:20-21).

From the combine the grain for this loaf of bread was loaded into semi trucks, hauled to huge grain elevators and finally loaded into train cars heading for Spokane, WA. That’s where the MILL for Franz bread is located.

After the huge milling machines pulverized the wheat, it became flour. Simple enough, right? Well, not for our loaf of bread. The flour in this bread is white flour. It’s made only from the inner core of the wheat kernel. So, fist the wheat was broken up, the outer layers of bran and germ removed, and then what was left was ground into white flour.

After this white flour was enriched with a dose of vitamins and minerals, it was loaded into semis and shipped to the Franz bakery in Seattle. That bakery is about 20 miles south of our church, just past the exit to the I-90 bridge.

Finally, the flour was mixed with water and yeast. It was allowed to rise for four hours. Then it was mixed with everything else needed to make this loaf. Sugar. Salt. Mold inhibitors.

We don’t have time to talk in detail about where all these things came from, but. But for your information, the yeast came all the way from Canada. The water from the Cascades. The natural gas to heat the ovens came from thousands of miles away. From reserves in the Rocky Mountains and from Alberta and British Columbia.

After this loaf of bread was baked, still other wonders touch it before it reaches the shelves. It was cooled on huge factory lines, cut into convenient slices and bagged. These actions sound simple, but this bread was packaged in a bakery that can produces over a thousand loaves in a single hour. I assure you, it is anything but simple. Slicing machines, conveyors and baggers introduce yet another line of ancestry leading to this loaf of bread.

When all the packaging was finished, a simple bread truck delivered this loaf to Fred Meyer, where my wife plucked it off the shelf and brought it home.

It seems kinda simple just sitting there, doesn’t it? Not exactly the greatest thing since sliced bread… well I guess it IS sliced bread. And it really is quite remarkable. So many different people, machines and technologies went into putting this loaf here. But only ONE GOD stands behind them as their creator and provider.

Today, bread will sit on nearly every Thanksgiving table among many other edible blessings from God. And as we gather around ours, we’ll bow our heads in thankful prayer. How could we not? For God has exerted so much loving care and astonishing power to set these gifts on our tables.

As it says in the book of James,

“17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:17-18 NIV).

God gives us what we need for our body and physical life. But He also give more. He give us His own Son. Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” that gives eternal life to all who trust in Him. In John 6, verse 35 it says,

“…Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

And in verse 40…

"40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:35, 40).

Without Jesus, we’d always be hungry for righteousness, but never satisfied. For no matter what we do, our sins just get heavier and heavier, and our good works are never good enough. But through His Cross, Jesus takes all our sins away and fills us up with His righteousness. He is the “Bread of Life”.

Giving thanks for this ONE LOAF took more than a couple minutes. It’s a good think that Jesus give us eternal life along with the forgiveness of sins. Eternity MIGHT just be enough time to thank God for all His goodness.


November 22, 2009

Jesus is Our King - Nov 22, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


God loves you. May your hearts believe it. And may the full forgiveness of sins which comes from Christ, fill you with peace. Amen.

You’ve probably seen this bumper sticker before.

(Pastor holds up a “HE'S NOT MY PRESIDENT” bumper sticker.)

I think these came out when George W. Bush was first elected president. It was a way some people expressed their doubts about the election process. It was also a way of saying, “Don’t associate me with him. I didn’t vote for him and I don’t believe in his agenda.” For some it even meant, “I don’t accept his authority as president.”

My first reaction to these bumper stickers was, “Well, you may not like him, but in reality, he is the president of the United States.” We all have to obey the powers that be, or face the consequences of our choice not to.

You see, there are two kinds of leaders. Those you listen to because you have to, and those you listen to because you want to.

As the Creator of all things Jesus has authority over all people. But that doesn’t mean all people are part of His Kingdom.

Today is “Christ the King” Sunday. The last Sunday in the traditional church year. Today we’re going to examine what it means to call Jesus OUR King.

Turn to John 18, verse 33.

“33Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
34Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”
35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”
36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
37Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:33-37 NKJV).

You might have noticed that there are a lot of authority figures in this little text. There are at least five authority figures mentioned or alluded to here. There’s PONTIUS PILATE, the governor of Palestine. There’s the ROMAN EMPIRE that made Pilate the governor there. There’s the CHIEF PRIESTS that handed Jesus over. There’s the NATION OF ISRAEL, part of which was gathering just outside as this conversation was taking place between Pilate and Jesus.

And then there’s Jesus. He says, “I am a king”. And yet he makes it clear that His authority is different than the authority of these others. He is not an earthly king.

If you look at Jesus’ life this fact is obvious. It’s clear that Jesus never wanted a physical kingdom. Once, the crowds that tried to make Him their king, but Jesus refused.

Turn to John 6, verse 14. This is just after Jesus had fed more than 5,000 people using only five loaves of bread and two fish. It was a miracle.

“14After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:14-15 NIV).

Jesus wanted no part in an earthly kingdom.

This is relevant today. Because Jesus is not an earthly king, His kingdom has not faded to nothing like the kingdoms of men do.

Think again of those other authorities in our text. The chief priests no longer exist. Pilate is dead. The Roman Empire long gone. But the Kingdom of Christ prevails even today because it is NOT an earthly kingdom. Jesus rules today in the hearts of all who trust in Him.

A great military general was once asked if he would trade places with someone else if he could. If he could, would he trade the fame and glory of being a general for some other job. He said yes, that if he could, he would rather be an author whose book had been read by millions, than be a general whose strategy had conquered millions. This general said that a book can move hearts and minds, military strategy can only move bodies.

This is what makes Jesus’ kingdom so powerful. It’s not about conquering peoples and lands. It all about sharing a message of truth. Jesus told Pilate,

“…For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth…” (John 18:37).

Jesus spoke this message of truth to the high-born and to the lowest classes of the common people. He preached to the rich and to the poor, to the Jews and to non-Jews. His message was for all people because it was about sin and salvation.

The core of Jesus’ message was this: We are all sinners. Our sin separates us from God, and unless our sin is removed, upon our death we will be separated from God forever.

But God loves sinners and has provided a way for their sin to be removed. The eternal Son of God was born into the human race so that He could suffer for all our sins on the cross of Calvary. And through faith in this truth, the forgiveness of sins is received and we are restored to God’s side.

Many leaders use their authority to serve themselves. But Jesus served the people. By His perfect life and innocent death He earned salvation for sinners. And through His message He gives salvation to all who believe.

In Mark 10, verse 45, Jesus said it like this:

“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).

Jesus offered this truth to Pilate. Jesus told him,

“…Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice…” (John 18:37 NIV).

All of Pilate’s questions were designed to see if Jesus was a threat to Roman authority or not. When they were through, Pilate was sure that Jesus was not.

But what Pilate didn’t realize was that Jesus was marching forward in conquest even as the spoke. He was on the way to the cross at that very moment. On the way to suffer to the sins of the world.

And along the way , Jesus was reaching out to Pontius, the man. Inviting him to know the truth of God’s salvation.

“…Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice…” (John 18:37 NIV).

This was an invitation! But Pilate wasn’t interested. We all know Pilate’s response. He said, “What is truth?” and went back to talk to the mob outside.

But many others have heard Jesus’ invitation and have come to know and believe the truth He offers. That God loves us. That He forgives us through Jesus. Through faith in this truth, we have become subjects in the Kingdom of Truth.

Turn to Luke 17, verse 20. Jesus was asked when the kingdom of God would arrive. He said…

“…The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).

Jesus’ Kingdom is a Kingdom of Faith.

Now this is a lofty idea. Some would mock this idea altogether. What good is a “Kingdom of Faith”? What good is faith at all?

Faith by itself has no value. Faith is simply trust, and trust is only as good as the thing that is trusted.

And THAT is why faith in JESUS is so valuable. After Jesus was done talking with Pilate, He was beaten, scourged and crucified. Then He died and was laid in a tomb. But that wasn’t the end. Death was the end for every other ruler who had ever walked the face of the earth, but NOT for Jesus.

On Easter Morning He rose from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people during the next 40 days to prove it. To show that He had conquered sin and death and the Devil.

Our FAITH is in a King who was born two thousand years ago, but who still lives on today.

Our FAITH is in a King who is actively working in our lives right now, and whose reign will not remain invisible and inside forever.

Our FAITH is in a King who promises His subjects an eternal, joyful existence lived with God in Heaven.

This is the truth we have come to know and believe. Christ is OUR King.

So let’s not live like we’re ordinary citizens of a temporary nation. We are the redeemed children of God. Let’s not live like our King is far away, when He is only a prayer away and in reality He never leaves us.

Let’s live the life He marked out for us. A life of repentance and freedom from sin. A life of being ambassadors for the King, pointing out the way of salvation as we walk that way ourselves. Let’s display this message to the world.

(Pastor Holds up another bumper sticker. This one says, “HE IS MY KING”)


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

November 15, 2009

Saints Triumphant Through Christ's One Sacrifice - Nov 15, 2009

Due to ongoing issues with our website, the audio version of the sermon is still unavailable. We apologize for this inconvenience.


After today there is only one Sunday before Advent begins, and with it, the new church year. Today is called “Saints Triumphant” Sunday. So what does that mean, “Saints Triumphant”?

The word “saint” just means “holy one”. In the Bible the word “saint” is synonymous for “Christian” or “followers of Jesus”. If you believe in your heart that Jesus died to take away all your sins, you are one of His “holy ones”, one of His “saints”.

Through FAITH in Christ we have been given HIS victory over sin, death and the devil. We are “Saints TRIUMPHANT”.


May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

The 1996 Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Georgia. During those Olympic games a sprinter named Michael Johnson broke the world record for the 400 meter dash and captured the gold medal for the United States.

Johnson was so confident that he was going to win the gold medal, that he stepped out onto the track wearing shiny GOLDEN SHOES. Imagine the confidence he must have felt to be that bold.

When it comes to the race against sin, death and the devil, we are even MORE confident that Michael Johnson. When he put on those golden shoes, he was saying, “I’m ready for this race. I’m going to win it.”

But because of Jesus was say more. We say, “I’m not just ready for this race. Because of Jesus, I’ve ALREADY won it. My sins are forgiven, I own eternal life and Satan can’t touch me, so long as I’m in Christ.”

Our sermon reading for today emphasizes this fact: We are “Saints Triumphant Through Christ’s One Sacrifice”.

Turn to Hebrews 10, verse 11. The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were Jewish by birth. They must have lived near Jerusalem before 72 AD when it was destroyed and the Temple sacrifices put to an end.

Much of Hebrews is dedicated to showing how Jesus is better than any Israelite priest and better than any Old Testament sacrifice because He is the fulfillment of them. He is the Savior that the whole Old Testament was pointing to.

Hebrews 10:11-18 (NIV)

11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Before we get into this, we have to understand one thing. None of this is going to make any sense, or matter at all unless we believe that we are sinful, and sin deserves eternal separation from God.

God has standards. He says, There are things I want you to do and things I don’t want you to do. If we violate His standards, that’s sin. And sin disqualifies us from heaven.

We have to understand this first of all. We have to understand that only someone who is perfect, someone that has NEVER sinned could ever stroll up to the gates of heaven and say, Open up, I want to hang out with God for the rest of eternity because I’m pure just like Him. If you can’t say that then you need a Savior. You need someone to take your sin away. To put you in the winner’s circle. To make payment for you.

Jesus is the Savior that God sent. He suffered the punishment of ever one of your sins. For every one of my sins. For every one of our children’s sins. For every one of our neighbor’s sins. All of it. He suffered for them and died in their place. He was raised to life on the first Easter Sunday, so that everyone would know that God the Father accepted His sacrifice.

That’s what this whole section of Hebrews is all about. The writer wants us to know and believe, it’s done. Our sins have been forgiven.

To bring this truth home to us the writer to the Hebrews uses three pictures. Three illustrations. The first one, “Jesus Sits Because the Work is Done”.

Verse 11.

“11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:11-12 NIV).

This is talking about the Priests who served in God’s Temple before it was destroyed. God had commanded that all sorts of sacrifices be offered at the Temple. They sacrificed birds, goats, rams, bulls, lambs. They offered grain offerings, burnt offerings, sin offerings, fellowship offerings, thank offerings.

But none of these actually removed sins from a person’s record. These sacrifices pointed forward to the ONE sacrifice that God was going to provide when Jesus, His own Son, died on the cross. That is the only sacrifice that removes sin.

Obviously, the priests in the Temple were very busy. They had to oversee the butcher of animals for sacrifice. They had to throw away certain parts, perform ceremonial washings, prepare the offerings for the altar in very specific ways. They had to make sure everything was offered in the way God had said to offer it. You can read about all the God given rules and regulations for these sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7. All this made the priests very busy guys. They were always on their feet.

But Jesus is described very differently. Jesus sits.

Do you have a favorite chair at home? Maybe a big cushy La-Z-Boy recliner. Maybe a favorite spot on the couch? Well, when do you sit down in your favorite chair? When the work is done, right?

That’s Jesus right here. One of the reasons Jesus sits down at the right hand of God is so we know that His work is done. The sacrifice necessary to redeem sinners has been completed.

I like to say that the whole Old Testament was like the previews, Jesus was Blockbuster movie. The priests and all their sacrifices were the hype, Jesus was the actual sprinter that ran the race and won it. And what do you do when you’ve won the race? You take a victory lap and then you sit down and relax. The time of preparation is done. The time of performance is over. The time to enjoy your victory has come.

We are “Saints Triumphant Through Christ’s One Sacrifice”. The second illustration that drives this home is found in verse 13-14.

“13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:13-14 NIV).

That part translated, “he has made perfect forever” is the Greek word, “Tel-eye-ah-oh”. It means to complete something. To bring it to it’s end. To bring it to the goal. You could also translate by one sacrifice He has “brought us to the goal”.

Jesus is saying, Through my Sacrifice I have put you onto the top of the podium. I have placed you in the winner’s circle. You are already there, the victory is yours.

It says that he had made perfect those who ARE BEING MADE HOLY, because the Holy Spirit didn’t leave us when He brought us to trust in Christ. He stayed. He is continually weeding out our old sinful attitudes habits. He is continually re-planting the seeds of godly behavior. He’s preparing us for life in heaven. Life with the Holy God. But through faith in Christ, heaven already belongs to us. The victory over sin is ours because Jesus’ one sacrifice covers over our every sin.

To use another picture from the sporting world. It’s like Jesus has hit the ninth inning grand slam. The walk-off home run that wins the game. We were gonna lose, but Jesus stepped up to the plate and crushed that ball out of the stadium. And now we get to run the bases for Him.

The victory is already won. Nobody can take that homerun away. He hit that homerun on the cross when He suffered and died for every single one of our sins.

We’ve already been brought to the goal.

Okay. We’re saints triumphant because Jesus SAT down. His work of salvation is finished.

We’re saints triumphant because by His one sacrifice we’ve been placed in the WINNER’S CIRCLE.

Now for the last illustrations. Verse 17-18.

“17Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”
18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:17-18 NIV).

Where these have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

The word translated “forgiven” is the Greek “off-feh-sis”. It can also be translated, “released”, “pardoned”. Basically what it means is that your obligation to pay a debt is no longer there. You’re free. You’ve gone to pay off a bill and found that someone has already paid it. You couldn’t pay it if you wanted to, the debt is already gone.

God says, I’m not going to remember your sins anymore. But God doesn’t say this because He’s forgetful. He’s not going to remember OUR SINS because He’s gonna remember JESUS’ SACRIFICE IN OUR PLACE.

This totally strips the Devil of all his power. Any sin that Satan accuse the saints of, God’s response is, Well yeah, but my Son suffered for that sin. He died as the Sacrifice for that sin.”

If you take ONE THING away from this sermon, let it be this. There is no more payment to be made for sin. Jesus has paid off your debt already. He did it on the cross of Calvary, and the receipt is in the empty Tomb of our resurrected Savior.

We are “Saints Triumphant Through Christ’s One Sacrifice”.

The first image. Jesus SAT down because His work of saving sinners was done.

The second image. Jesus’ one sacrifice in your place puts you in the WINNER’S CIRCLE.

The third image. There’s no more debt to be paid. It’s gone.

This is freedom. Turn to John 8, verse 31. This freedom for sin and sin’s punishment is what Jesus was talking about when He said…

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 NIV).

Our every sin. Every dark and wrong thing that we’ve ever said, or done or even thought, has been washed away by the blood of Christ’s sacrifice.

We’re free. Free from fear, to live a life of joy. Free from slavery to sin, to serve God. Free to forgive others, as we have been forgiven.

We are “Saints Triumphant Through Christ’s One Sacrifice”.


November 8, 2009

Watch Out for False Prophets - Nov 8, 2009

This week the sermon is not available in audio. Sorry. Issues with our website.


May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.

The world that we live in is filled with fakeness.

One of the places where we see fakeness nearly every day is the way in which products are sold. Every company wants to outsell the competition. So, they design and package their products in a way that makes they seem better than the rest, even if they aren’t.

Studies have shown that with certain products consumers believe that heavier means higher quality. So, if a company designs an incredibly light cell phone or laptop, they might actually end up put weight panels into it so that consumers will pick it over the competition.

Or think about all the buzz words you see on food items. “25% percent more!”. “All Natural”. “Light”. They question is, 25% more than what? You might assume that “Light” means less calories. Nope. It could actually just mean lighter in color.

Have you ever noticed how many pizza shops and restaurants have been voted #1 by someone, somewhere. Maybe by the owners, who knows.

My wife really likes how Kohl’s ads are forever proclaiming, “Lowest Prices of the Season”. What they don’t tell you is that Kohl’s seasons are only six weeks long.

The world is full of fakeness, and lies. But, some of these lies are more harmful than others.

Just a couple days ago I caught news show talking about a how some seniors had been scammed out of their retirement money.

Some little company claimed they could get really good investment returns for Seniors. They had a good presentation. They seemed legitimate. But really, they were just using the money they got from seniors to invest in some pretty unstable places.

They scammed millions of dollars from the elderly before they got caught. The scammers ended up going to jail. But the money was pretty much gone.

In our reading for today, Jesus is going to talk about fakeness.

We’re just about to the end of our study of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. He’s just finished talking about the broad road that leads to hell and the narrow road that leads to eternal life. That narrow road that is Jesus.

Now He’s going to warn His listeners about false prophets. False prophets who don’t just want to sell them a bag of chips. False prophets who don’t just want to scam away their retirement money. False prophets who would to take them away from Jesus and set them back on the broad road that leads in hell.

Turn to Matthew 7, verse 15. This is what Jesus has to say about false prophets.

“15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:15-23 NIV).

There are two kinds of false prophets. There are unbelieving false prophets, and there are believing false prophets.

Paul talks about believing false prophets in 1 Corinthians 3, verse 10. Turn there for a moment. There it says,

“10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV).

Paul is talking about a believer in Christ who is teaching falsely. He escapes God’s judgment because of his faith in Christ, but everything he built by his false teaching is destroyed.

This was Paul talking, but when Jesus warns about false prophets in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s NOT TALKING ABOUT BELIEVERS who are making terrible mistakes. He’s talking about UNBELIEVING FALSE PROPHETS.

We can tell by how Jesus describes them.

First, Jesus describes them not as stumbling brothers in Christ, but as CARNIVOROUS HUNTERS DISGUISED AS GENTLE CREATURES.

Secondly, Jesus describes these false prophets as BAD TREES, NOT GOOD TREES.

Jesus isn’t talking about two apple trees, one that’s healthy and one that’s unhealthy.

Jesus is talking about DIFFERENT KINDS OF TREES. A good tree is a KIND of tree that will produce EDIBLE FRUIT. A bad tree is a KIND of tree that will NEVER PRODUCE EDIBLE FRUIT.

You see a good amount of holly bushes around this area. Did you know that holly berries are poisonous to humans? It’s what Jesus would call a bad tree. It will never produce edible fruit. If you found one in your orchard, you’d cut it out and burn it.

But an apple tree, that you’d leave. No matter how badly you neglect an apple tree, it won’t ever produce poisonous berries. It’s what Jesus would call a good tree.

At the end of our reading from Matthew, in verses 21-23, Jesus tells these false prophets that He never knew them. They are not His followers, no matter what they claim. This makes it clear. Jesus is talking about UNBELIEVING FALSE PROPHETS.

And this is why they’re so deadly. They seem like followers of Christ, but they’re not. They don’t trust in Jesus as their Savior, and they don’t want us to either. But you’d never be able to tell that from just looking at them. They’re disguised very well.

A while back I reviewed some animated DVD’s of Bible stories. I thought, hey, maybe we could use these. One of the stories I watched was Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness. What I didn’t like about it was that whenever Satan appeared to tempt Jesus the sky would go dark and this ominous robed and hooded figure would appear. This was obviously the Devil. I doubt that Satan appeared like that to Jesus. I mean, what kind of temptation would that have been?

Satan’s best lies are the ones mixed with a little truth. And his most effective temptations come from people we know and trust. And when Satan sends false prophets to deceive us, they don’t wear labels.

But that’s okay, because Jesus tells us how to identify them. He says, Look at their fruit. Look at what they say.

Now, when the Bible talks about the “fruit of something”, it can mean anything that is PRODUCED. The fruit of the womb is a baby. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is good words, attitudes and actions. The fruit of a missionary is people converted to Christ.

But the best “fruit” to use in identifying a false prophet is the fruit of their mouths. The words that they say. We could look at their actions, but that can be a little tricky. God’s prophets sin, but that doesn’t make them false prophets, just sinners. On the other hand, false prophets do their best to behave in front of the people, but that doesn’t change their message. Judging what a person says about God is the more reliable. Is this person teaching what God’s Word says?

That’s how Jesus says to identify the good or false prophet. And that’s one of the most important reasons why WE NEED to be familiar with what God’s Word actually says.

Turn back and take a look at verse 21 of our sermon reading. Matthew 7, verse 21. Here Jesus takes another look at the disguise of the False Prophet. One of the reasons that the False Prophet is so effective at fooling people is that he sounds just like a Christian!

“21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 NIV).

The False Prophet talks the talk. He knows the right words to say. He may even speak the message of Christ, and then he’ll add to it. Or take a little away from it. Alter it slightly.

The False Prophet will also walk the walk. He’ll act like a Christian. In fact, he might even do things that seem like amazing acts of faith. Verse 22.

“22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22 NIV).

But Jesus will not be fooled by their words and actions. Words are worthless when not mixed with faith. Even prophecy, driving out demons and working miracles amounts to nothing, if it is not mixed with faith. Faith in Jesus.

In Hebrews 11, verse 6 it says,

“…without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Jesus tells His followers that there are going to be people on the last day who approach Him and claim a connection to Him because they used His Name. There are going to be people on the last day who approach Jesus and claim a connection to Him because they did amazing things connected with His Name. But Jesus says,

“Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23 NIV).

Words and deeds cannot secure heaven. Words and deeds cannot secure heaven. Only a simple trust in Christ can do that. Only faith in His all sufficient suffering in our place on the cross of Calvary. That’s what secures heaven for sinners. By faith we know Christ, and He knows us.

Turn to Philippians 3, verse 8. Here Paul says

“…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).

This is the Gospel Message. The righteousness that makes sinners clean COMES FROM GOD, through His Son Jesus. And sinners receive this righteousness THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS.

That’s what the False Prophet doesn’t believe. That’s what the False Prophet would have us forget.

Watch out for false prophets.
Recognize them by their words.
And hold tightly to Christ, your only Savior. Your complete Savior.

I’d like to end this message with a prayer. Please join me.

Prayer: Father in heaven, you have made us your own people through faith in Jesus as our great Savior from sin. Thank you. Help us to be in your word consistently so that we can recognize the voice of the false prophet when we hear it. Send Your Holy Spirit to us and never leave us alone. Without You we would be easy prey to the wolves, and would soon be stumbling down the broad path again. For Christ’s sake, for all He did in our place to earn our salvation, keep us in His Faith dear Father.


The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

November 1, 2009

Reformation Sunday, Nov 1, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


In Martin Luther’s time, the Catholic Church was the largest church. Martin’s parents were part of this church, because pretty much everyone was. But this wasn’t a good thing, because the Catholic Church was not teaching the Bible correctly.

As a little boy, Martin was taught lots of rules and commandments to follow. He was taught that if he obeyed God’s rules well enough God would be happy with him. But if he didn’t obey God’s rules than God would be very angry with him and would set him on fire in hell. Martin knew he sinned much, and was terrified of how God would punish him.

But the real God wasn’t like the God that Martin’s Church taught him. The true God loved Martin dearly, and had big plans for him. God would show Martin the greatest truth of the Bible.

God does expect us to follow His rules. God is angry with sinners. But the greatest truth that the Bible teaches is that, for some reason, God actually loves sinners and has provided a way for them to escape the punishment for sin.

God sent His own Son to be punished instead of us. The sinless Jesus suffered in our place when He died on the Cross. Because He did this, our sins are forgiven.

All have sinned against God and deserve horrible punishment, but through faith in Jesus God gives us life, forgiveness and a place in heaven.

Today we celebrate the Lutheran Reformation because through the events of the Reformation the precious message of Jesus was once again preached, taught and believed by grateful sinners the world over.


Reformation Day falls on October 31st, because it was on that day that Martin Luther nailed up the 95 theses. The 95 theses were really an invitation to debate 95 statements. He nailed these on the door of the church in Wittenberg simply because that door was used as a sort of bulletin board.

Most identify the posting of the 95 theses as the beginning of the Reformation. In fact, the sign for “Luther” or “Lutheran” is making an “L” with your right hand and tapping it on the flat vertical palm of your left hand.

However, the 95 theses were not nearly as important as the next three documents that Luther published. Luther wrote “Address to the German Nobility”, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church” and “The Freedom of a Christian”. One History book says the following about these three works,

“They were the trumpet calls by which he aroused the Church from her slumber, broke the yoke of papal tyranny, and reopened the fountain of God’s Word to all the people and directed them to Christ as their only Master and Mediator” (Sketches from the History of the Church, E. Hageman).

Today we’re going to examine a few of the important teachings expressed in these documents. Teachings which Luther had found in the Bible, but which were at odds with the Catholic Church. Turn to Matthew 16, verse 13.

13When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
21From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
22Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
23But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:13-23 NKJV).

In Luther’s day, the Catholic Church taught that Jesus made Peter the leader of the Christian church with this statement, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church”. The name “Peter” means “rock”.

The Catholic Church taught that this right to rule over the church like a king has been passed down throughout history in a line of Popes. This passing down of authority is not historically documented. It is not mentioned in the Bible. Nor does the Bible suggest that Peter had special supreme authority over his fellow Apostles and Christians. Peter was always prominent and outspoken among the apostles, but not pre-eminent.

Quite often Peter’s boldness was a curse and not a blessing. In the section of Matthew that we read just a moment ago, Peter is at one moment he is making a great confession of his faith in Jesus, and the next moment he’s telling Jesus not to go to the cross! Peter’s arrogance led him to believe that he knew better than Jesus, though Peter ended up claiming he didn’t even know Jesus when put on the spot after Jesus had been arrested.

Nor are these the only times when Peter failed. Much later in Peter’s ministry, he started to treat non-Jewish Christians poorly. He withdrew from their company as if they were not his fellow Christians until the Apostle Paul sharply rebuked Him for this hypocrisy.

The point is, Peter wasn’t infallible. He made mistakes like every other Christian. Sometimes he wasn’t such a solid “rock”. You see, the real “Rock” on which the church is built isn’t a man who makes mistakes and needs forgiveness for every day. The real “Rock” on which the church is built is the confession of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

Here’s the other thing. The Pope even went so far as to say that he was the stand in for the Son of God. The “Vicar” of Christ. Since Jesus ascended to heaven, the Pope took His place as the leader of God’s Church.

But do you remember what Jesus said to all His disciples before He ascended and took His visible presence from the earth? Turn to Matthew 28, verse 20.

“…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b NIV).

In his treatise, “The Freedom of a Christian” Luther got it right. He said that the Apostles called themselves servants of a present Christ, not the vicars of an absent one” (On the Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther).

The head of the Christian Church is, has always been, and will always be, Jesus Christ Himself.

TLH 370 verses 1-2


Turn to First Peter 2, verse 9. The Apostle Peter wrote this letter to churches scattered throughout Asia Minor. To Christians young and old, male and female, master and slave, to Jewish Christians and to Gentile Christians he wrote the following.

“9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV).

The Catholic Church of Luther’s day taught that as the “stand-in” or “vicar” of Christ, the Pope had supreme authority over all people. It was also taught that the Pope could transfer this authority to leaders in the church. To Cardinals, Bishops and Priests. In fact, you couldn’t be a priest unless you got your authority from the Pope’s church.

This was very important because a priest needed to have authority and power in order to do special things like change the bread and wine physically into the body and blood of Christ. Or so the Catholic Church taught.

The Pope could also give people authority to sell forgiveness. And this the Pope did from time to time in order to fund building projects in Rome. St. Peter’s basilica was funded by the selling “indulgences”. Which were just pieces of paper that said some or all of your sins were forgiven because you bought it this indulgence from the Pope’s Church.

A man named John Tetzel sold indulgences during Luther’s day. Tetzel’s selling of indulgences near Wittenberg was the reason why Luther wanted to debate indulgences. Tetzel was so bold, that he was selling the people forgiveness for sins not yet done. This way, they could indulge in sinful pleasures without the fear of God’s punishment.

But what does the Bible say about God’s priests? Must they wear black robes and backward collars? Must they speak in Latin and receive special powers from the Pope?

Peter, the supposed first Pope himself, wrote our reading above! He says that ALL believers in Christ are God’s priests! They are chosen to receive the mercy of God and to declare it to others.

Even though the Pope transferred his power to other leaders in his Church, he claimed that ONLY he could tell people what the Bible means. Since he was the stand-in for Jesus, his interpretation was the only right one.

But God’s Word is for every Christian man and woman to examine and study and understand. Not to interpret according to HIS or HER own whim, but to understand and interpret according to what the rest of the Bible says.

So, you might ask, “Why are you wearing the robe than? Why are you a pastor?” And the answer is simple. We can’t all preach at the same time. We can’t all teach at the same time.

I’m your brother in Christ. Brother Caleb. No more, no less. I have no magical powers. The only authority I wield is that which comes from the Word of God.

Turn to Ephesians 4, verse 11.

“11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV).

This is why Paul could rebuke Peter. He was his brother in Christ, not his Papal underling.


We are the spiritual brothers and sisters of Peter and Paul. We stand with them as the Priesthood of God. God grant that we carry His Name with honor and serve as His priests with care, enthusiasm and diligence.

WS 767 verses 1-2


16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV).

The Reformation was a religious movement. It wasn’t primarily about cleaning up corruption in the church. It was about restoring right teaching. And of all the teachings that it restored, Justification by faith was the most important. Justification by faith alone in Christ alone, is the heart and soul of Christianity.

In Luther’s treatise, “The Freedom of a Christian” he asks the question, if sin enslaves a soul, that what frees it?

Health of the body can’t free the soul. The wicked can be strong and healthy in body, but poor and dead in soul.

Wealth cannot free the soul. What difference does it make to God how much money you have in the bank?

What about giving your life over to God. Becoming a servant to the church? Luther found out for himself that doing that cannot free the soul either.

What about meditation and prayer? Many think that these things can bring freedom from sin and closeness to God. But it is not true. All our efforts to understand God’s Word and to speak to Him can’t do a single thing to free us from sin and sin’s punishment.

How about the world’s recipe for a happy heart? Doing good things for other people. Taking food to the food pantry. Donating to a local charity. Surely kindness is good, and can set the soul free? Again, the wicked can do these things also, can’t they? Kindness is good, but it cannot free us from our past sins or win us a place in heaven. Just as putting on nicer clothes won’t heal the a cancer inside.

What about learning? Education leads easier lives doesn’t it? Maybe education can lead to freedom of the soul?

No outward action can free the inward soul. No good thing done can erase the record of an evil past. All efforts to free our souls from sin and death and hell, accomplish nothing.

One thing, and one alone, is necessary for the soul to be set free from sin. Faith alone. Faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus says…

“…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25 NIV).

“…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NIV).

Paul writes…

“…if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV).

“17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17 NIV).

Health, wealth, the public ministry, meditation, kindness, learning: they’re all good things. But none of these things free the soul from sin and punishment.

Hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches are great tools, but they don’t get your linens white. In the same way, human effort can never cleanse the soul and set it free. Faith alone frees the soul from sin, death and hell. Faith alone in Christ alone. By faith in Christ Jesus we are declared righteous before God.

This was the great change that the reformation brought about. It wasn’t about the little monk standing up to the big church. It wasn’t about letting the people actually sing in church. It wasn’t about getting a Bible in the people’s language so they could read it for themselves. MOST OF ALL it was about this ONE TEACHING, salvation comes by faith in Christ, by faith in Christ ALONE.

When it comes to the Christian life there is much more to learn, but when it comes to salvation, that’s IT.

TLH 371 verse 1-4