Saturday, November 05, 2016

Sermon for 10/30/16: Festival of the Reformation

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.

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Abiding in Christ

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The struggle was over how sinners become free from sin. It is akin to the struggle going on in the Gospel for this festive occasion. In fact, if we were to do a quick scan of church history, we would find that this battle is always being waged. How does one become free from one’s sins?
Today we remember Martin Luther and all the Lutheran fathers who confessed the faith boldly in order to restore the gospel to the church. Today we stand as Lutheran Christians, following in the heritage of these Lutheran reformers.   We see it in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as He teaches in the temple. We see it in the early church fathers and the Council of Nicaea when the factions fought over the doctrine of Jesus Christ—who He is and whether or not He was God. We see it in Martin Luther as he spoke against the selling of indulgences for the paying off of sins. We even fight that battle today. Satan and his false preachers are constantly trying to creep into the church in order to replace the truth with the imaginations of sinful hearts.
It is always a battle between Christ and Satan. This battle, while being waged in the Church, is also being waged in your life. You have to cope with your sinful urges. You also have to cope with the stark reality that you spend more time in the world than you do in the church. This means more time is spent listening to TV, radio, and popular opinions, and less hearing God’s word and keeping it. Jesus never intended for people to half-heartedly take the salvation that He won for them on the cross.  The church is the place where new lives start. The church is the place of new beginnings for sinners. 
Once you get a new beginning in the waters of Holy Baptism, you pass through the waters of Holy Baptism. The old Adam dies, and you begin to live your new life in Christ. You abide in Christ and His Word, and you are His disciples, abiding in Him forever. You make your home with Him. If you are to abide with Jesus, if you are to make your home with Jesus, then you must spend time there. Jesus must become your dwelling place. This is more than just making occasional or even regular visits. You must be in God’s word constantly. You must be in prayer without ceasing. 
So...are you just a visitor to Jesus? Or do you truly abide with Him? You must come on your knees to the altar.  Abiding in Christ first means that you confess your sins—not just once, but constantly. You need Jesus to cover up your sins.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is why Jesus came in the flesh.  Jesus came to keep the Law and then bear all sins to death on the cross—including yours. Abiding with Jesus means you dwell in His mercy. The church is a mercy place. It has to be. Where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When your sins continue to frighten you or place doubt in your mind, Jesus brings you here, where He frees you from that terror.
Jesus beckons you with the gospel, and He continually reminds you that you have a home with Him in His Church. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” He says, “and I will give you rest. …For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
You cannot trust in yourself or wait until things are perfect in your life before you can abide in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus means that you place on Him all of your wretched and nasty sins, along with all of your imperfections. Jesus has paid for all of those sins. Your only hope of release from sin and the world is to abide in Christ. He will be your home. And abiding in Him, you will receive every good and gracious gift of God, including the resurrection of the body and eternal life, abiding in Him forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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