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This sermon was originally written by pastor Vance A. Fossum and provided by "Ministry by Mail". Audio read by pastor Caleb J. Schaller. For more go to http://clclutheran.org/ministrybymail/.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
In the name of Jesus—who came into the flesh of man in order to serve us all—dear fellow-redeemed:
As the telemarketer have reminded us with their continual invasion of our homes, it’s not always good thing to be “wanted.”
The fugitive from justice is not at all pleased that his “wanted” poster hangs on the Post Office wall. We were not always happy as children when our mothers would call out to us that they “wanted” us. How often didn’t we holler back, “What for?”
Whether or not we are pleased at being wanted by someone depends upon what it is for which we are wanted.
Many will compete for our attention during the coming year. Some will lie and cheat to get something from us for themselves.
The Devil wants you too! But do we recognize his approach through others who want us for this or that purpose? Eve did not recognize that it was really Satan who wanted her for himself when she heeded the invitation of the serpent. Joseph, on the other hand, fled from Satan when Potiphar’s wife wanted him!
What others may want of us in the coming year may be in direct conflict with what our Savior God wants of us. Everybody wants you, some for evil purposes, some for good, but God wants you and me for our highest good—here, now, and forever!
You who have been elected to the Church Council have been chosen by the Lord Himself to serve His congregation of believers. You are wanted for this service by your God. But you are also going to be wanted by many others in the months ahead. The same is true of each of us in our various callings—parents, children, teachers, laborers, business men, public servants, or whatever.
When there is a conflict and choice to be made, on what shall we base our decision? May we remember that first we belong to the Lord our Redeemer-God, who has purchased us!
In the words of our text Paul is warning against the immoral use of the body. He wanted to emphasize God’s dwelling in us, and how we should make use of our bodies which have become the temple of God’s Holy Spirit.
The entire life of the Christian is compressed into these two short verses. That life was made possible when the Son of God poured out His life’s blood as payment for the sins of the world.
Today we remember the circumcision of our Lord. Through the Law of Moses, God commanded this cutting off of the foreskin of eight-day-old male child. So began our Lord’s keeping of the Law perfectly for us and the first shedding of His blood for our sins.
All people were “brought with a price”—the life of God’s own Son! His life became our possession when the Holy Spirit worked repentance and faith in the Gospel of Christ in our hearts. At that time the Holy Spirit Himself took up residence in our bodies.
But the mysterious indwelling of the Spirit of God and the life He brings is such a gift of God that the believer is no longer his own master. All the other gifts from God to us are possessed by us, but this gift of the Spirit possesses us!
Being possessed by the Spirit through faith in Christ changes people. As a young boy I read a biography of Ty Cobb, Hall of Fame baseball player. If any man ever felt that he was his own master, it was Ty Cobb. Cobb was filled with himself and the desire to win at all costs. He was well known for his “dirty” play on and off the baseball field. His own teammates hated him. But near the end of his life, Ty Cobb was brought to faith in Jesus, and on his death-bed he talked of nothing but his Savior! Ty Cobb had learned the truth of Paul’s words: “...you are not your own; therefore, glorify God in (all the acts of) your body and your spirit (will) for they belong to God!”
In the coming year the unbelieving world will continue to go its own way, disregarding the commandments and teachings of God in order to maintain its unrestricted pursuit of whatever pleases the flesh. But let us remember that, through His blood, Christ “has purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the Devil,” so that we “should be Christ’s very own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (Small Catechism, 2nd Article). Surely none of us owes anyone more than we owe Him who gave Himself into the most horrible sufferings and death for our sins, so that we might have life eternal! (cf. Romans 12:1 ff.)
There is another and most wonderful reason that our Lord wants you and me in His service!
Most of those who want you in this life want you for their own benefit. This is human nature; and the Devil surely does not intend any good thing for you as he attempts to gain you into his service. But your gracious Lord wants to bless you through your service to Him!
The Bible teaches that the good works of the Christian receive a reward from God because they are the fruits of a living faith that loves God for His free gift of salvation in Christ.
In speaking of the preachers of the Gospel, Paul wrote earlier in this same letter: “each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)
In writing to Timothy about disciplining himself for the purpose of godly living, Paul wrote: “Bodily exercise is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Luther points out that the 4th commandment, as recorded in Exodus 20, contains a promise of reward to the believer. Children are commanded to “honor Father and Mother, that their days may be long upon the earth” (Exodus 20:12).
These are rewards of grace, not rewards of merit. For every true Christian knows that no one in the Kingdom of God may present God with a bill for works of service as if God owes him a reward. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). We ought to rejoice that our Lord so possesses us unto life eternal that He moves us to perform the works of faith’s love so that He may also reward us with both earthly and heavenly blessings!
This wonderful truth applies to us as we serve in the offices of the church, or as organist, or faithful church cleaner, grounds keeper, or choir member, teacher, janitor, pastor, or whatever.
It applies when we do good unto all people, love our enemies, and give to others without a concern for our own loss; when we witness to our neighbors concerning their Savior from sin, and when we as members of a family serve one another with self-sacrificing love and faithfulness.
In summary: All that we do in love and faith for our God and our fellow man works both heavenly and earthly reward for us. Therefore the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians: “Let us not grow weary in doing good: for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).
Yes, dear friends in Christ, everybody wants you for this or that. As we begin a new year, many are squaring off in competition for our attention, our money, our time; and the Devil will continue to make use of all and everything in this life to turn us away from glorifying God in our bodies and spirits and to turn us back to being our own gods as it once was with us.
But you were purchased—heart, hands, feet, mind, ears, body, and will—by the Lord God because He wanted to possess you and bless you in Heaven and on earth through Christ our Savior!
Your Lord wants you more completely in His service in the coming months and years. May He strengthen His grip on us all as He grants us grace through His message of forgiveness. May we resolve with Joshua once again in the new year: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15) Amen.