September 15, 2013
Sermon, Sixteenth Sunday after Trnity
Psalm 145, Ephesians 3:13-21, Luke 7:11-17
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 15, 2013
All doctrines have a practical application to everyday Christian life. The doctrine of salvation, for example, is not just about being saved and going to Heaven, but about how we live and what we value here and now and every day. In fact the doctrine of salvation includes every other doctrine, for it is almost a summary of the entire Bible. One part of the doctrine of salvation is so important that a proper understanding of it leads to great peace and faith in the believer’s life. But an improper understanding of it leads to fear, worry and theological error in almost every other aspect of understanding the Bible. I am talking about the old question, can I loose my salvation? Is it possible for a real, true believer, a person who has been born again into a new life with Christ, a person who has been cleansed of all sin and restored to fellowship with God and God’s people, a person who has been adopted into the family of God, to loose all of those benefits, in short to be lost again?
So we are talking about something very important today. The doctrine we are talking about is often called, the perseverance of the saints. Simply stated, it says real Christians stay Christians. They never leave the faith, and, once saved, never become lost again. The Bible does not say we will not have doubts, or fall into sin, or have times of fear. It does not say we will never consider leaving the faith. It simply says God holds us in His hand and nothing can pluck us out of it. And, by His power and grace, He will keep us in the faith and get us to Heaven. Article XVII of the Articles of Religion, states this doctrine in clear and Biblical terms. After telling us of our justification, adoption into the family of God, being remade into the likeness of Christ, and empowered to live as God wants us to live, it says we “at length by God’s mercy… attain to everlasting felicity.” God takes us to Heaven, the place of eternal joy.
Most of our meditations on perseverance tend to focus on the fact of perseverance, but today I want to talk about the how of perseverance. We persevere in the faith because God preserves us. It is He who sought us when were going our own ways like lost sheep. It is He who called us to come to Him and be saved. It is He who carried us back to the fold. And it is He who keeps us in the fold. Before I start on how God preserves us in the faith, I want to talk about why He preserves us. For that we turn to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 7.
Nain was a small village about 18 miles south west of
where Jesus had recently been teaching and ministering. We have been reading about His ministry in Capernaum about in last
week’s readings in Matthew. Going to
Nain was part of a planned preaching tour of Galilee.
Christ intended to leave Capernaum
for such tours, as we see in His words to Peter in Mark 1:38, “Let us go into
the next towns that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.” Christ made several preaching missions
through Galilee, and this may have been part
of His first trip.
As He entered Nain a funeral passed Him. The only son of a widow had died. In those days a widow often lived with her son or daughter. It was the Jewish social security system of the time, and it worked very well. This woman was probably poor and had depended on her son for her home and food. Her situation looked bleak. She would be reduced to begging for food, often going without the necessities of life.
But Jesus had compassion on her. We need to say here that Jesus has compassion on all of us, according to His purpose and our needs. Seldom does He raise people from the dead, no matter how deep our grief may be at their passing, no matter how great the cost to our financial security and comforts. He raised the dead only a few times, each time to make a point; He is the Lord of Life. He has the power to raise the dead. Since only God has that power…, Jesus is God. Making this point is part of His intention in this passage too, but He also has another: He intends to show His compassion. This is not the first time the Bible speaks of His compassion. Matthew 9:36 says “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Mark 1:41 a leper had come to Jesus, “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him, and saith unto him, I will, be thou clean.” Jesus is touched by our sufferings and trials. He Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He suffered hunger and weariness. He suffered temptation, though He never sinned. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. Finally, He laid down His life to save us from the worst disaster that could ever befall us, the disaster of eternal hell. He has compassion on us and His compassion is usually expressed in standing with and comforting us with His promises of Heaven and eternal joy. It is usually not expressed in miraculous healings, raising the dead, or delivering us from the troubles we have caused for ourselves and others. He does deliver, but it is usually by the slow process of sanctification rather than a sudden and miraculous transformation of circumstances. So here is the point; Jesus is able and willing to preserve us in the faith. Truly, nothing is able to pluck us out of His powerful and loving hand.
This leads us to an important point in Ephesians 3. Here God is delivering and preserving the Church, which, by the way, consisted of many congregations, each with its own pastor, under the direction of a bishop, who was under the direction of the Apostles.. So we are talking about a lot of Christians and a lot of churches in
Ephesus and the
surrounding area. And here is how Paul
prays for them. He asks God to
strengthen each Christian with might by His Spirit in the inner man. He asks not that they be delivered from their
illnesses, persecutions, or the normal trials of life. He asks God to strengthen them so they will
be enabled to persevere through the trials.
He asks that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith. In other words, may they, by faith, trust the
word of God that Christ does dwell in them.
He is never away from them. He is
never just in Heaven. He is in
them. May they know this by faith. He asks that they may be rooted and grounded
in love, that is, love for God and love for others. I wonder how many of our troubles would just
disappear if we loved one another as we love ourselves. I wonder how much
better we would get along at home and work, and especially at Church if we were
willing to just love and let love guide our thoughts and actions. I am talking, of course about love for one
another, not love for ourselves. Self
love is the cause of most of our problems.
Self love is the source of sin, pride, greed, laziness. Love of God and love of neighbor is the cure,
and that only comes to us as the gift of God’s grace as He makes new creatures
out of those who believe in Christ.
It is through these things, the might of the Spirit in the inner man, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that we are filled with all the fullness of God. And that fullness of God is how He gives us strength to persevere. It is how He preserves us, both individually and collectively as His Church. This is how we continue in the faith instead of losing our salvation.