Compelled to Preach

“COMPELLED TO PREACH”

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

            For nearly thirty years, the apostle Paul proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to kings and commoners, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, free and slave, and even to Greece’s finest philosophers—some of whom called him a SPERMALOGOS, that is, a “seed picker.”

During that time, Paul made three extensive missionary journeys, and by some estimates traveled more than 25,000 miles. Along the way he faced fierce opposition and endured many hardships: hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, sleeplessness, beatings, betrayals, stoning, persecutions; and all this while struggling with that mysterious “thorn in the flesh.”

Surely, at our busiest, we have all still marveled at Paul’s tireless commitment to preach the Gospel. “I am compelled to preach,” he said. Compelled. The Greek word is ἀνάγκη (A-NANG-KE) and means “necessity.” Literally, “a necessity is laid on me.” But what was that necessity? What compelled Paul to travel so far and to endure so much to preach the Gospel—and to such an extent as to exclaim, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel”? The answer, I believe, is fourfold. Continue reading

Adopted into God’s Family

“ADOPTED INTO GOD’S FAMILY”

Romans 8:12-15

            At its simplest, faith is taking God at His word. I believe that God created the universe and all life in six ordinary days, because the Word of God states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1. I believe that I am saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by my own works, because the Word of God declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9.

From the Virgin Birth to the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, from the fall of man into sin to the fall of Jericho, from Noah’s ark to the Ark of the Covenant, from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day; I may not have seen these realities with my eyes or understood them with my mind, but I believe them in my heart, because God has revealed these truths in His Word. And at its simplest, faith is taking God at His Word. Continue reading

The Meaning of the Ascension

“THE MEANING OF THE ASCENSION”

Acts 1:1-11

1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. 3After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 6So when they met together, they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

Regrettably, for many Christians and Christian churches, the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven has become little more than a historical footnote, a “P.S.” to the work of redemption, which culminated in the death of Jesus for our sins and the resurrection of Jesus for our justification. But the ascension? Interesting, but not that significant. However, this is not the biblical view of the ascension. Continue reading

Prepared to Witness

PREPARED TO WITNESS

1 Peter 3:8-16

            It was late on Christmas Eve. All the presents were beneath the tree—except one. Before going to bed, I still had to assemble a tricycle for my youngest son, Andrew. Removing the parts from the box, I glanced at the instructions, yawned, then tore them up and threw them away. At midnight, I had no desire to read microscopic print. “Besides,” I told myself, “I don’t need instructions. How hard can it be to assemble a toddler’s tricycle?”

For the next three hours I struggled with that how-hard-can-it-be tricycle. When I was done, one rear wheel wobbled, the handlebars were crooked, and most troubling of all, there were parts left over which I could not explain. Yes, you’re right. I should have read the instructions. And if that is true of a tricycle, it is certainly true of life.

There is an instruction manual for life. It’s called the Bible. Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Continue reading

The One Way

“THE ONE WAY”

John 14:1-12

            Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) This morning consider with me three aspects of this statement: the comprehensiveness of its claims, the conflict it causes, and especially, the comfort it brings.

First, the comprehensiveness of the statement “I am the way.” Is there anything unclear or ambiguous about these words of Christ? Is there any hedging, dodging, or half-truthing, as there is with so many of our politicians? No. In a single verse composed of two simple sentences, Jesus insisted that He alone is the only way to God the Father; that He alone is the only way to be saved. Continue reading

How the Kingdom of God Grows

“HOW THE KINGDOM OF GOD GROWS”

Mark 4:26-34

IN THE NAME of the One True God, the God of Scripture, who alone has the power to make everything grow; dear friends:

In today’s text, Mark 4:26-34, Jesus used two agricultural examples to teach an important spiritual truth; namely, HOW THE KINGDOM OF GOD GROWS. And this is an important lesson for every pastor, every teacher, every missionary, every Christian congregation and every member in that congregation, every parent worried about the spirituality and faith of a child and every child worried about a parent, every husband and wife desiring to save or enrich their marriage, and for every Christian looking for the strength to endure a difficult situation. In summary, this is an important lesson for every believer undertaking any endeavor within the kingdom of God. And this certainly includes our ministry here in Cape Coral. Continue reading

Living Lives of Reverent Fear

“Living Lives of Reverent Fear”

1 Peter 1:17-21

            LIVING LIVES OF REVERENT FEAR. I can’t claim any originality for this sermon theme. It comes directly from 1 Peter 1:17, “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” But what is “reverent fear?”

             In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther explained each of the Ten Commandments by incorporating the phrase, “We should fear and love God.” For example, the First Commandment: “ ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

Or the Second Commandment: “ ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.’ What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” And so with the rest of the Ten Commandments, as explained by Luther.  Devotion to God. Honoring parents.  Refraining from killing, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting—all out of fear and love for God.

But again, what does “fearing God” mean? We are perfectly fine with loving God. Loving God is a happy, heartwarming thought. But fearing God? This makes us squirm uneasily in the pews, doesn’t it? For many people, fearing God conjures up images of an angry deity wrapped in black, swirling storm-clouds and hurling lightning bolts—exactly the way Luther himself thought of God before discovering the Gospel; and exactly how many ancient religions viewed their chief deities: Baal, Zeus, Jupiter, and Thor. All storm-gods with lightning bolts. Continue reading

Gone Fishing

“GONE FISHING”

John 21:1-14

            After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of forty days. And during that time, according to Acts 1:3, He showed Himself alive by many “convincing proofs.” The Greek word translated as convincing proofs has the sense of “unmistakable evidence.” Jesus gave His disciples unmistakable evidence that He was, indeed, alive.

As the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples and taught them about the kingdom of God, they increasingly understood the implications of the resurrection. The living Savior meant living hope. The resurrection meant that Jesus Christ was exactly Who He claimed to be; namely, “the Son of God with power.”

The resurrection meant that death was a defeated enemy; that God the Father had fully accepted the sacrifice of God the Son for sins; and that nothing done in the name and power of the risen Lord would ever be done in vain. Continue reading

The Facts of the Resurrection

THE FACTS OF THE RESURRECTION

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

            The warning was clear. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17) In Hebrew this last phrase, “You will surely die,” is more literally “dying you will die.” With the Fall into Sin, humanity’s existence became a dead, dying existence.

And what words better describe our world than death and dying? Globally there are 105 deaths each minute; 6,316 deaths each hour; 151,600 deaths each day; and 55.3 million deaths each year. Imagine how many industries and economies are related to death and dying: the funeral industry; the medical industry; the insurance industry; the mental health industry; the forensics industry; the armed forces industry; and many more. Continue reading

A Christ-Like Attitude

“A CHRIST-LIKE ATTITUDE”

Philippians 2:5-11

            Each Lent we approach the cross of Jesus to focus on what He suffered to redeem us from our sins: betrayal, beatings, flogging, spitting, mockery, crown of thorns, the agonies of crucifixion; all while carrying the sins of the world, as Isaiah wrote, “And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

If we truly come to the cross of Jesus; if we truly understand Who died on that cross to save us, namely, the eternal Son of God; and if we through faith truly picture Jesus on the cross, bleeding, suffering, struggling to breathe, crowned with thorns, yet still looking down on us with infinite compassion and love; how can we not be changed? How can the cross not change our lives, priorities, behavior, and attitude? Continue reading