Tuesday, October 18, 2011
October 16/17, 2011
Seminarian Nathan Buchner
Text: Jonah 4:5-11
There are times in this life that are worth dreading. No one ever wants to fire workers at a job. No one wants to tell the bad news of an injury or even a death. We may not want to do things like this, but they still need to get done. My friends, serving God is not one of those instances that we should dread. The problem is that you and I are still stubborn sinners, and we at times we fail to see the fantastic opportunity before us. You see, serving God is a gracious gift, not a chore. In our stubbornness, God remains concerned. And in the end, God even uses us to reach other stubborn sinners.
In order to understand our section of Jonah, it is first necessary to understand what happened to him before. The story of Jonah started with God commanding Jonah to preach to Nineveh. But, in his stubbornness, Jonah decided not to do what God was commanding. Instead of making his way to Nineveh, which is close to present Iraq, he decided that he would sail straight to Tarshish, which is around Portugal or Spain! But, as he was doing this, a huge storm popped up. Because of this, Jonah had to confess his sin to the others on the boat, and suggested that they throw him into the sea. Then the storm stopped, and Jonah was swallowed up by a great fish. The thing is though, that this fish did not see Jonah as fish food. Instead, God used this fish for three days and nights to carry Jonah to dry land. Once this happened, Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance. Finally, the people turned to God and believed.
Although it would be a “happily ever after” ending for the story to stop here, it does not. Jonah actually faced a much more miserable ending in his book. Once Jonah noticed that the people had repented and turned to God, he said to the LORD, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Nowhere in the rest of Scripture is the fact that God is slow to anger and abounding in love considered a bad thing. Only here in Jonah is it this way. After having talked with God, Jonah is so upset that he leaves the city to which he had just preached.
Now, if you’re thinking that this reaction seems odd for a man who just had the single greatest missionary experience of all time, you wouldn’t be alone. I mean, God used Jonah, a stubborn sinner and, through him, converted an entire city! The normal action after this would be to go and live it up with the brothers and sisters. But this wasn’t what Jonah did.
Jonah instead left Nineveh behind. He did this because he saw God’s gift of gospel ministry as a chore. Eventually, he sat down to the east of the Nineveh, and waited to see if the city would be destroyed. Again, Jonah went directly against God’s wishes, just as he did when he sailed the opposite way of Nineveh.
Now, if I were God, I would’ve probably ended Jonah right there. But look at God and his concern, “Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.” He remained patient and provided. God’s first provision was a vine which gave Jonah comfort and shade. And for the first time, Jonah was happy.
But, his happiness was short lived. For, God had something bigger in mind for Jonah. This time when God provided, Jonah experienced discomfort, “But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.”
Without the vine, Jonah was completely susceptible to the elements. He faced brutal winds and heat, and then grew faint. And because of his pain and his stubborn nature, Jonah again said, “It would be better for me to die than live.”
And, once again, God steps in. Here God appears to be like a father listening patiently to his son expressing his feelings. He allowed Jonah to speak, but only to lead him to see that he was wrong in this matter. Even with all of God’s patience, all Jonah could muster was that he had the right to be angry. In fact, Jonah said, “I am angry enough to die.”
If we take a look at the rest of the book, we can get at the heart of Jonah’s anger. In reality, Jonah never wanted to preach to the Ninevites because he felt they didn’t deserve the Gospel because of their actions. These people weren’t like the Jews. No, these were the barbarians that tortured their captives, who showed off their savage deeds by hanging mutilated corpses on their city walls. And the Jews never did this. In reality, the Jews seemed quite tame compared to those Ninevites. The problem though is that the hearts of Jonah and the Jews were just as evil as the hearts of the Ninevites.
However, you and I continue to make the same mistake Jonah made. We judge ourselves and others based off of actions, not hearts. And once we do this, we may be lead to think that God’s grace doesn’t have to stretch so far for us. We let ourselves believe that we’re really not that bad. The problem is that we are judging only actions, not hearts. And when we do this, we think others are below us because of their evil deeds.
It doesn’t take much self-inspection to know that we really have nothing to be proud of. Our hearts are just as black as Jonah’s, and we must confess, like Paul, that we are the chief of sinners. Then once we do this, we must confess that we are no better than the Ninevites or Jonah.
But yet, God remains concerned. He sees your condition and how black your hearts are. And then he responds with his love. Yes my friends, the Lord who was concerned with Jonah is the same Lord who was concerned with the Israelites from our Gospel lesson. We saw how those Israelites who were hired first complained when they were getting paid. They felt they had done more, and for this deserved more. They didn’t understand that the work they were doing was a gift from the generous landowner, not a chore. Just as that landowner, who in reality is God, had the right to be generous with the workers, so he had the right to be concerned about the Ninevites, and even has the right to remain concerned for us. For, it was because of his grace that he shows this concern. Grace that led this very Lord Jesus to the cross to pay for all of their sins, and also for all of yours.
So, my friends, know this. God has granted us the full measure of his love. He does this because of his patience and his concern for stubborn sinners.
In our own lives, we are constantly reminded of his patience. In fact, he is so patient, that he uses us to reach other stubborn sinners. And, as we go about this work which he has given us, we know that serving God is a gracious gift, not a chore.
The reason that it is not a chore is because of the love we know we have in God. God, in verse 11, puts on his full spectacle of love when he says, “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
The point that God is making here is that if Jonah was concerned with his vine, although he did not make it, why shouldn’t God be concerned about animals and especially people? Now there are a number of ways to take the phrase 120,000 who can’t tell their left hand from their right. The first way is to say that this phrase is referring to children who are so young they don’t know their left hand from their right. Now if the youngest children make up 10% of the population, this would mean the overall population of Nineveh is 1,200,000 people! The second way would be take this expression as a figure of speech. Since the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, they were completely lost. In their spiritual darkness, they wouldn’t have even been able to distinguish their spiritual left hand from their right. If the phrase is taken this way, there would have been 120,000 people in the city. Think about this then: 120,000 people is more than a quarter of the WELS! Either way you take this phrase, this is a lot of people that we’re dealing with here.
And just like that, the book ends with a question. If you’re thinking to yourself that it seems to end abruptly, you’re not alone. Many have wondered, “Well what happened to Jonah?” Did he ever realize the opportunity that God had given him? Did he ever see that God gave him the gracious gift of reaching other stubborn sinners? But in all honesty, we don’t know. The only thing we do know is that Jonah ended up writing this book, thus he could have turned back to God and this would then be his confession. However, this is not the point. The book is about God in his love, trying to show Jonah the awesome opportunity he had: that he was the one called on to preach repentance to an entire city!
In the end, we reach a glorious truth. Just as God used Jonah to preach, so he uses us to reach other stubborn sinners. Jonah, in his book, never seemed to learn this awesome truth. But you and I can see Jonah, and learn from his mistakes. We can learn that being God’s spokespeople is a gracious gift, not a chore.
There are times in this life that are worthy of dreading. But thanks be to God, that preaching his word should not be one of those chores that we go about grudgingly. This is true because God has shown his concern for us, people who were as lost as those Ninevites. We have seen how far his love has stretched for us, and we want to tell others of this great love also. For us, serving God is a gracious gift, not a chore.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Sermon - October 2/3, 2011, by Pastor Paul Eckert - Pentecost 16
Sermon text - Romans 13:1-14
WHAT DO WE OWE - -
I - TO THOSE ABOVE US?
II - TO THOSE AROUND US?
III - AND ALSO TO OURSELVES?
13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
What do we owe? Mortgage payments, property taxes, car payments, credit card debts, student loans, sales taxes - and that is by no means the end of the list. Such debts are owed to governments, businesses, creditors, and so on. Our sermon text also makes us ask
WHAT DO WE OWE - -
I - TO THOSE ABOVE US? (1-7)
l. It is God who established authority. (1-2a)
a) In His 4th Commandment God established the closest
authority above us, the authority of parents. "Honor your
father and your mother" is God’s will.
b) God also has established the biggest "above us" authority , the
government. That is clear in these words of our text:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, ---.
2. God has also authorized enforcement of authority. (2-4)
a) Parents have authority from God to discipline their children.
That is not to abuse them, but to control them for their good.
b) In the same way God has authorized government authorities to
control and to punish for the good of the people. That includes
the government’s use of the sword or military weapons, or
police use of pistols and swat guns or capital punishment if
such are deemed appropriate to protect people and punish the
guilty. This authority is clear from these words of our text:
He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the
3. And God also tells us what we owe to those above us. (6-7)
a) Here we think of those who are above us as authorities to do
good. If authorities are not good - for example you have bad
parents or bad governments, then there can be special problems
about how we as Christians deal with that. But for authorities
working for the people’s good, God’s will is clear. We read:
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
b) You may not enjoy paying taxes, but be honest and pay them.
You may not always agree with parents and others in authority,
but respect their positions and give them the honor due them.
4. What do we deserve? (5)
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
a) A Christian should submit to proper authority not only because
he wants to avoid a fine or jail, but above all because of his
conscience, because he wants to glorify his Savior God by
striving to follow God’s will with regard to authority.
b) Do we do that if we ignore traffic laws, cheat on our taxes,
don’t respect parents. teachers, police, or others in authority?
c) And when we don’t give those above us what we owe them,
then what do we deserve? It is the wages of our sin. And you
know what that is. And that’s not good. But before going into
that more, let’s next ask, "What do we owe -"
II - TO THOSE AROUND US? (8-10)
1. God’s will applies also on the horizontal level. (8)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
a) We’ve talked about the vertical level, authority above us.
b) "One another" puts us on the horizontal level. As we owe
respect to those above us, so we owe or have a debt to love
one another, those around us.
2. That means we do not owe a lack of love. (9a)
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not
murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other
commandment there may be, ---.
a) Take any of these commandments, and what do they have in
common? It is a lack of love. Just think of all of the hurt done
when there is unfaithfulness in marriage or the misuse of sex
outside of marriage. Murder, physically hurt someone in anger
- that’s not showing love. The shoplifter thinks he isn’t hurting
anyone; but is it love for others who have to pay more to cover
his costs? Coveting what someone else has, that can lead to
many problems that certainly do not show love.
b) These are just some examples of a lack of love.
3. What we do owe to those around us is love. (9-10)
The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
a) Do you want someone to kill you, steal from you, and so on?
b) Of course not! What we want for ourselves, love, is what we
owe to those around us. "Love your neighbor as yourself."
4. What do we deserve? (10)
Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
a) Are we always unselfish? No. Do we perfectly keep God’s
commandments? No, even though we try. Do we always treat
those around us the way God wants us to? No.
b) So what do we deserve? You know. It is the wages of sin. It
is to be rejected by God who demands perfection.
c) That is why we should ask what we owe to those above us and
to those around us, and then go on to ask, -
III - AND ALSO TO OURSELVES? (11-14)
1. Remember who we are. (11c,14a)
a) Verse 11 in our text refers to "our salvation." That’s the
salvation won for us because God so loved this world, the
salvation that is ours by faith in Jesus who paid for our sins
with His innocent life and perfect death as our substitute, our
Savior who is our salvation. Then verse 14 tells us:
--- clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,---.
b) We are Christians, believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. But do
we always look like and behave like Christians? Or the way we
act and talk at times would you think we have the devil’s suit
on instead of being clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ? Let’s
be what God has made us! Let’s remember who we are!
2. Recognize what is coming. (11-12a)
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
a) The older we get the nearer we come to God’s promise of
heaven for all who are clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ.
b) Recognize that. There is an end point to this life.
3. Live accordingly. (12-14)
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
a) How should I live if I believe in Jesus as my Savior from sin?
b) It is not by willfully sinning, joining the world in any of its
sinful behavior. Rather it is by fighting against sin, letting the
world see by our behavior who we are by God’s marvelous
4. What do we deserve? (11)
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
a) When it comes to our lives, we know what we deserve.
b) When it comes to Jesus’ life for us, we know what we have
been given. It is salvation. It is to be where sin will be no
more, nor any tears or crying or pain.
c) Praise God for the forgiveness of sins now, and praise Him for
our salvation which is drawing nearer with each passing hour.
Summing up now: WHAT DO WE OWE - To Those Above Us,
- To Those Around Us, - And Also To Ourselves? The answers
really all point to what we owe to God who says to us, "Submit to the
authorities -- love one another -- clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ." By giving To Those Above Us, To Those Around Us, And Also To Ourselves what God wants us to do, we are actually praising God by following His will.
Strengthened by the Holy Spirit may we strive to do that always
better. Clothed with Jesus’ righteousness to cover our sins and weaknesses, let us pay what we owe, let us live lives that glorify God for His gift of salvation!