Mark 9:30-37 – Majoring in Minors

Mark 9:30–37 30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

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

The disciples have a problem on their hands—a real problem.

The disciples have left everything to follow Jesus, and things have been going well.  They are the Twelve followers of Jesus—a Man who can do things.  He is casting out demons right and left.  He is healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and cleansing the lepers.  He is making the lame to leap, the deaf to hear, and the mute to speak.  He is raising the dead.  He can still the wind and waves and walk on water.  He can provide food for the multitudes.  He is challenging the religious establishment, bucking tradition, and teaching hidden truths.

Jesus is doing all of these things and gaining notoriety.  He is becoming extremely popular, and people thronged about Him.  In fact, He is so famous that He can’t keep Himself hidden—even when He tries (Mk. 6:31-34; 7:33-36).  The crowds are so impressed with this Jesus that they conclude, “He does all things well” (Mk. 7:37).

But the disciples still have a problem.  Their problem is that Jesus is saying strange, very strange things.  Well, really, it is one strange thing, but He keeps saying it.  Jesus is saying that He is going to die (Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34).

This is a problem for the disciples because, how will they serve a dead Savior?

Plans need to be made; this great movement must continue.  If Jesus says that He is going to die, preparations need to occur to make sure there is leadership for what comes after.  Who will lead?  Who will direct the ministry once Jesus is gone?  Who is the greatest among them?

Jesus is focused on His impending martyrdom; the disciples are distracted with their rank and position.  Jesus is speaking of being killed; the disciples are jockeying to be the student who becomes the teacher.

Jesus has continually been preaching, “The reign of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15); what the disciples are missing is that the reign of God will come through defeat.  Jesus will ascend the throne and conquer on the cross.

The disciples do not understand; they are ignorant.  And who would have understood when Jesus speaks about His death?  No one.

The problem is that the disciples hide their ignorance.  They hide it deep and are afraid even to speak about it.

Many times in the past the disciples did not understand things, but they brought their ignorance to Jesus.  The disciples didn’t understand parables, so Jesus would explain them (Mk. 4:10; 7:17).  The disciples didn’t understand about the feeding of the 5000, so Jesus feeds a multitude of 4000.

But this time the disciples keep their ignorance to themselves.  They are afraid even to ask.  As one commentator says, “They understand enough to be afraid to ask to understand more” (E. Best).  “They understand enough to be afraid to ask to understand more.”

As they travel with Jesus to Capernaum, they have what they think is a secret discussion.  When Jesus asks the disciples about their quiet quarrel, they keep silent like guilty schoolboys.

But Jesus knew.  He knew what they had been discussing.  Jesus knew their ignorance and fear about His death.  Jesus had said (Mk. 4:22), 22 Nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.

The disciples have a problem: how do you serve a dead Savior?  Jesus sheds a little light on the subject and teaches them more about following Him.  He teaches what it is to be a disciple of Jesus, “If anyone would be first, he must be, of all, last and, of all, servant.”

Jesus speaks of descending; the disciples’ minds are fixated upon ascending.  Jesus speaks of service; the disciples argue about their own personal greatness.

How often is it that your discussions about ‘spiritual things’ become an opportunity to reveal to others how great you are?

You hear it, and you do it.  You begin to discuss the Scriptures, and you want to make sure you get your view, your opinion, in so others can know how well acquainted with the Bible you are.

You want to have a Bible study that goes deeper, a study that is more practical, because those other studies just teach about sin and grace—and you’ve heard enough about that.

You talk about church attendance and you make sure others know that you haven’t missed a service in months, and the last time you did, you listened to a preacher on the radio.

You boldly write your name on the sign-up sheet at a time when others will be sure to see that you are doing your part.

You have been such a good, faithful volunteer doing everything that is required of you.  If only others would serve, even half as much, as you have served.

If there is a way to find glory or recognition or just to have one person take a little notice what you have done by way of ‘Christian service,’ you find it.  What a great lot of glory seekers, we all are.

What does Jesus do?  He takes a child.  Why a child?  The disciples are arguing about who is the greatest, and there would be no argument that this child is definitely the least among them.

Rabbis during Jesus’ time instructed parents to treat their children like heifers, increase their burden daily until they are able to contribute.  Parents were not obligated by law to feed their children after age six (Chethub.).  Children can’t work and are just another mouth to feed.

One commentator says, “Children occupied an interesting place in the first century household. They represented the future—they would carry on the family name, provide for their aging parents, and produce the next generation. But in the present, they were a liability” (A. Allen).

Jesus takes this liability, this child, the obvious least and lowest in the group, and Jesus embraces him.  Jesus says, “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him Who sent Me.”

Jesus, in the midst of His disputing disciples welcomes and receives the least among the whole group, a liability, a child.

The disciples have a problem, how will they serve a dead Savior?  They did their best; they tried to continue the mission.  But their focus was off.  This Savior did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom (Mk. 10:45).

Jesus came to serve the lowest of the low.  He came to serve tax collectors and sinners.  He came to serve prostitutes, gluttons, drunkards, lepers, and even children.  Jesus came to serve those who were liabilities and could not do anything for themselves.  He came, even, to serve you.

Believer, disciple of Christ, you have a problem.  And your problem is similar to the disciples’ problem.  The disciples had to learn how to serve a Savior Who was literally dying to serve them.  You have to learn, how to serve a God Who insists on serving you.  What can you do when God rejects even your righteous deeds because are tainted with sin?  What service can you offer to God when He has become your Suffering Servant?

Jesus says to serve your neighbor.  Serve the least among you.  When you welcome the least, you welcome Jesus.  When you welcome the least, you welcome Jesus, and you really welcome the God the Father.

Disciple, how do you serve a God Who insists on serving you?  You serve others.  And you will botch your service.  You will brag about it and try to out-serve others.  You will compete asking, “How low can you go?”

But it is not really you doing the service.  God is working through you.  God is the One doing the ministering and, through you, providing for the least of the least—even when your motives are wrong.

You serve a Savior Who truly became last of all and servant of all.  Jesus’ glory didn’t come until His service was rendered.  Jesus’ cross came before His glory.   The same is true for you.  Jesus has given you a cross to bear, service to render.  Amen.

May the peace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit guard you—mind, body, and spirit—until eternity.  Amen.

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Colossians 1:11-13 – Christ the King 25th Anniversary Sermon

Colossians 1:11–14 11 May you be empowered in all power, according to the strength of His glory, toward all endurance and patience with joy 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you for a share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has rescued us from the authority of darkness and transferred us into the rule of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Who are we, and why are we here?  As we sit here on our 25th anniversary, I think it’s important and even imperative for us to ask, “Who are we?  Who are we at Christ the King Free Lutheran in East Grand Forks?  Why are we here; what is our purpose?”

Many passages could do this as well, but these four verses from Colossians very succinctly and very powerfully help us understand who we are and why we are here.

Who are we?

It is very easy to define who we are not.  Little to no thought is needed to say, “No, we are not like them.  No, we disagree with those people.  We deny that doctrine.  No, no, no, we aren’t that type of ‘Lutheran.’”

It’s not as easy to define who we are.  We have solid tools (the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; Luther’s Small Catechism; and the Augsburg Confession) which identify what we believe.  And what we believe goes a long way when trying to define who we are.

What does Scripture say we are?  Starting in the middle of v. 12, Scripture says you are qualified.  Notice you are qualified not because of something you have done or some choice you have made.  You are qualified by God the Father.  How could anyone dare say that they are qualified before God unless God has done the qualifying Himself?

As we have looked back on our past, we heard of God’s powerful work in and through this congregation; we remember how God has richly provided for us.  In everything, God has caused growth and blessed us.  And, yet, it would be foolish to say that we have been a ‘model congregation.’  We would be fools to say that we are the epitome of what a congregation should look like because that just isn’t the case.

We have failed.  We are all sinful; we are all sinners.  We all fall short of the glory of God.  We hurt our neighbor, we hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we hurt our witness to others.  For all of that, you and I need forgiveness.

Thank God He is in the forgiveness business.

You were by nature unqualified.  But God has qualified you; He has made you worthy.  If the God Who is holy, holy, holy has made you qualified, who is anyone to say that you are unworthy or unqualified?

God has qualified you for a share, for a portion, in the inheritance of the saints in light.  The inheritance that the saints receive, there is a share in it for you because God has qualified you.  He washed away your sins.  In baptism, God buried you with Christ and raised you up with Christ (Ro. 6:3-7).

God saved you in your baptism.  He connected you with Christ; He rescued you.  You, sinful sinner that you are, were under the authority of darkness—you were in a hostile kingdom.  But Christ came bringing the rule and reign of God with Him.  He purchased you, He redeemed you, and transferred you to His rule.  In Christ you have the forgiveness of sins.  In Christ, you are forgiven, redeemed, naturalized into Christ’s kingdom; you are rescued, sainted, and qualified.

That is who we are.

Why are we here?

Even though we are now under the rule and reign of Christ, there are more people to be qualified by God the Father.  There are more people to be rescued from the authority of darkness and transferred into the rule of the only-begotten Son of God.

Christ your King uses you to work as He grows His kingdom.  You are His tools used to qualify others.

God doesn’t need your works.  Apart from your works, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has qualified you, rescued you, transferred you, and given you redemption the forgiveness of your sins.  God gives you all these things and leaves you here to work for the benefit of others.

God doesn’t need your works, but your neighbor does.

God has set you free.  You are free, then.  You are free to forgive others because you have been forgiven.  You are free to love others because you are loved by God.  You are free to serve your neighbor because Jesus Christ has served you.  You are free to provide for your neighbor because God has provided for you a share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

God is empowering you; He is empowering you with His power to do those things.  You are here so God can provide for, serve, love, and forgive your neighbor.

You fail—yes, you fail.  We all fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We fail to love our neighbor as ourselves.

But when you fail, there certainly isn’t a problem with your qualification—God qualified you.  You simply struggle with understanding the totality of God’s forgiveness.  Believer, in God’s eyes, you have never sinned—ever.  Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29).  If Jesus has taken away the sins of the world, that means Jesus has taken away your sins too.  Don’t try to steal your sins back from Jesus.

And even when you commit the same sin you were confessing just two seconds ago, receive again the fresh, infinite forgiveness of God.  His mercies never come to an end.

Who are we?  We are Christ the King Free Lutheran—sinners who have been forgiven, redeemed, rescued, transferred, and qualified.  Why are we here?  To be those who are qualified by God, to be Christ the King Free Lutheran, the body of Christ purchased and forgiven, empowered with the strength of God’s glory, enduring and patient.  Amen.

May the peace of God guard you—mind, body, and soul—unto the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Mark 7:31-37 – Very Good

Mark 7:31–37 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In the name of Jesus, amen.

Bill Nye the “Science Guy” might wish I didn’t start the sermon this way, but I hope you remember Gen. 1 where God creates the world.  Each day God creates something new: Day 1 – light; Day 2 – atmosphere/heavens; Day 3 – land, sea, plants; Day 4 – sun, moon, stars; Day 5 –  fish and birds; Day 6 – animals and humans.

At the end of every day whatever God created is described as being what? (Good).

Finally, when everything was finished on the sixth day, God steps back and looks at everything He created and how is it described?  (Very good).

How did God create all of those things?  (He spoke, and they came to exist).

God did not take things that already existed and shape them with His hands.  God simply spoke and things that did not exist came to be.

The second half of our Gospel text v. 31-37 is very similar.  Jesus, God in the flesh, speaks and the impossible happens, things are created.

The crowd brings a deaf, mute man to Jesus.  What does Jesus do to heal this man?  Well, a couple of things.  He puts His fingers into the deaf man’s ears.  He spits.  He uses His spit-riddled fingers to touch the mute tongue.  Only after doing all these things, does Jesus speak.  Jesus speaks to deaf ears and a tongue that is literally tied commanding them to open.  They obey.

What happens here is a fulfillment of our Old Testament text from Is 35:5–6 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Jesus is restoring creation.  God created the world and it was very good, but sin caused the world to fall.  Jesus came to redeem all of creation—that includes you.  With just a Word from Jesus, parts of creation which had fallen, a man’s deaf ears and flawed tongue, are restored.

When Jesus’ ministry is summarized by Mark (1:15), you read that Jesus preaches “The reign of God is at hand.”  Jesus’ work is to bring that the rule and the reign of God as He ministers.  As Jesus makes the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap like a deer, the mute sing for joy, all of this shows that in Jesus, creation is being restored.  Jesus is re-creating.

When you confess the Apostle’s Creed, you finish with, “I believe in… the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” or in the Nicene Creed you finish with, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”  Think about Gen. 1 and how God created the heavens and the earth and each day they were described as good, good, good, good, good, and very good.

Scripture closes by teaching that God will make all things new (Rev. 21:5).  God’s work is to fully restore creation to the way that He intended it to be.  Scripture teaches that your body will be raised from the dead and you will enjoy the eternal bliss of the new creation.  You will be in the presence of God for eternity.  Won’t that be great?

The man in this text got to experience a taste of that as Jesus poked at him, put His divine spit on his tongue, and spoke to him in a region called Decapolis about 2000 years ago.

Do this for me please:  put your fingers in your ears for a couple of seconds, just so you take them out before the end of the sermon.  Stick out your tongue and touch it.  God created those ears and that tongue and all that exists, and He likes them.  And God is still interested in your ears and your tongues.  So, Jesus redeemed them.

Eph. 2:4–6, 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Notice, God made you alive together with Christ.  God raised you up with Christ.  God seated you in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  “When you were dead in your trespasses,” God made, raised, seated (all aorist tense verbs)  Don’t spiritualize it.  Don’t make it symbolic.  Listen to it again and let it sink in:

Eph. 2:4–6, 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved [you], 5 even when [you] were dead in [your] trespasses, made [you] alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised [you] up with Him and seated [you] with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

In this text, the crowd gets caught up in the fact that Jesus can make a deaf and mute man hear and speak.  The crowd says, “Jesus has done all things well.”  Again, this is Gen. 1 creation language.  But Jesus is doing things that are greater than the crowd realizes.  Today, that man’s ears are deaf; that man’s tongue is mute because his ears, tongue, and the rest of him is dust.

Jesus is doing more than making the deaf hear and mute speak.  Jesus is re-creating.  Jesus came to save you and all of creation.  He has washed away your sins in your baptism when He buried your sins in His death and defeated them in His resurrection.

Creation began in Gen. 1 with God creating light.  Jesus still creates light.  In Mt. 5:14-16, Jesus says you are the light of the world.  I have heard this taught as though your good works are lamps that you light and place on a stand.  That is wrong.  Jesus says that you are the light of the world.  A lamp cannot light itself; a lamp cannot get itself either under a basket or up on a lampstand.  But God can and does.

God speaks into your darkness and there is light.  God doesn’t light you to put you under a basket, but to put you on a stand.  God puts you on a stand so that people are drawn to the light that God has given you.  As the people see the light that God has given, they give glory not to you but to God.

God has created life in you and placed you in whatever vocation you are to be a witness.  “And God saw that it was good.”  As you obey your parents, teachers, bosses, and superiors, you are God’s hands and feet at work in creation.  “And God saw that it was good.”  As you do your chores, go to school and work, and interact with your family and neighbors, you are a witness to the glories of God.  “And God saw that it was good.”

A church father once wrote, “Remember that you might be the only Bible anyone reads.”  That is true.  But don’t think that you have to be a perfect person either.  You won’t be.  You fail now and you will always fail.  Don’t get overly upset with yourself.

Remember what the crowd said about Jesus, “He does all things well.”  They were right in thinking that—more right than they realized.

Jesus does all things well, and that means—you do too.

Gal. 3:27 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

It is easy to get upset with yourself.  It is easy to see the ways where you have not been a good witness.  It is easy to see how God would be upset with you because, frankly, what you do all too often does not turn out to be very good.  Satan wants to discourage you and remind you of the ways you fail.

Remember what Ro. 8:28 says, 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  God uses even your failures.  Christ does all things well, and you are in Christ.  Christ still does all things well.

Heb. 13:21 says that the God of peace 21 equip[s] you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever.

God will do the work in you that is pleasing in His sight.  Because Jesus Christ, the Word of God Who caused all things to come into being (Jn. 1:3) is in you.  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Mark 7:14-23 – Internals

Our sermon text this morning continues a discussion between Jesus and a group of scribes and Pharisees who came from Jerusalem.  The scribes and Pharisees were accusing Jesus and His disciples of breaking the “tradition of the elders” about being clean—His disciples weren’t eating with properly-washed hands.  Jesus blasted the scribes and Pharisees for being hypocrites who are focused on externals but whose hearts are far, far from God.

Mark 7:14–23 14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Look at that list again (v. 21-22)—evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  Maybe you haven’t physically murdered anyone.  And maybe you haven’t committed sexual immorality or adultery.  Those other sins listed—evil thoughts, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander—maybe, you haven’t done those either, at least not too often.  But you get the close of that list where you find—pride and foolishness—you find that Jesus puts you into the absolutely guilty, without-a-reasonable-doubt category.

Also, remember that Jesus said (Mt. 5:21-22), “If you are angry with your brother” you are guilty of murder.  He says (Mt. 5:27-28), “If you look at a woman with a lustful intent, you have already committed adultery with her.”

The worst thing about all this is that all these sins and evil are not ‘out there’ somewhere.  They don’t just come and stick to you.  Worse, they originate from within, out of your heart.  Evil doesn’t find you and defile you.  Rather, you are defiled by what comes out of your heart, not by what you put into your stomach.

You have reached your full potential of being and doing good by yourself, and Jesus says that you have fallen short.  Your heart is far, far from the holy God.

In a book titled The Hammer of God, which I will call a theological novel, the author Bo Giertz follows what happens in the Swedish Lutheran church over a period of about 100 years.  At one point in the book, a member of a congregation tries to explain to his old pastor how he knows he is saved.  He says, “I have given Jesus my heart.”

The old pastor responds,

“[I]f you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved….  It is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior… it is a very different thing to believe on Him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief.  One does not choose a redeemer for oneself nor give one’s heart to him.  The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap.  A fine birthday gift indeed!  But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him.  That’s how it is.”

Jesus, in our text, says it is not anything that you put into yourself that makes you unclean (lit. ‘common’).  He makes a distinction between being sinful and being a sinner.  Both are true of you, but there is a difference.

Jesus (and the rest of Scripture) describes you as being sinful with all those wretched, evil things coming out of you.  When you only think of being sinful, you could come to the conclusion that if you could just get to the point where you do fewer sins—with God’s help, of course—you would make God’s job easier, and He could just remove all of the sin that is filling you.  Maybe then what is left would be good and pure.  That is wrong.

Your problem is not the sin that is “out there.”  The problem is you.

You are a person who is sinful—full of sin—but you are also a sinner.  Sin is part of who you are.  You are a sinner.  Every part of you is soiled with sin.  Your thoughts, words, deeds, and emotions reveal that you are a sinner; it is who and what you are.

The scribes and Pharisees were concerned with foods that entered a person’s mouth that would make them defiled (lit. common), and they made their traditions so binding that they, in effect, worshiped their traditions rather than their Redeemer.

The foods and animals that God had declared unclean in the Old Testament didn’t have anything wrong with them or else Jesus could not have declared all foods clean.

Nothing that goes into you defiles you.  As unhealthy as it is, not even smoking cigarettes makes you a sinner.  Nothing you put into your body makes you evil.  Your body will expel it into the toilet, the latrine, (Yes, Jesus actually uses ‘potty language’ here).

What goes through your stomach and into the toilet does not make you a sinner.  Rather what comes out of your heart defiles you.  The true excrement is from your heart.

The prodigal son revealed what was in his heart.  He had a lust for money, murder, wicked desires, pride, and foolishness.  As he wasted away his inheritance living high on the hog, he was headed down a road that lead him to a life in the pig sty.  Yet, his father looked and waited for his return.  The son had prepared to make things right with his father.  He had a plan.  But the father doesn’t want to be repaid—the son won’t be able to repay him anyway.  The father fully forgives and completely restores his son.

The father doesn’t have a long talk with his formerly lost son about how what he did was wrong, and “it better not happen again.”  The father gives a feast.

It was not the long walk home that changed the prodigal son’s heart; it was the welcome he received when he got there.

The same is true for you.  God isn’t concerned with your resolve to “do better next time.”  God doesn’t want you to rely on what you do because everything you do comes from your heart and will be filled with pride and foolishness.

See Satan wants you to focus on your repentance, to focus on the new life you make for yourself, to focus on your efforts to do better next time for God.  When that is your focus, you will get frustrated.  Satan knows that the more frustrated you are with your sin and your relationship with God, the less you will talk to others about, and maybe, just maybe, you will abandon God altogether.

Don’t focus on your repentance or your commitment to God.  You don’t have anything to offer Him.  You have a defiled heart filled with evil.

But God does have something to offer you in Christ.  Your Creator is a merciful and gracious God.  He sent Jesus to redeem you.  He sustains you with His Word and sacraments to continually give you His grace.

Scripture gets it right, go figure.  From our Psalm today Ps 119:132 132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way.

Or as David prayed, Ps 51:10 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.  He doesn’t pray, “Make my heart do what you want it to do so that I don’t have to come back here and confess again.”  No He calls upon God to create something where there is nothing.

In Php. 3:9 Paul prays that He would be found in Christ 9 not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but [a righteousness] that comes through faith in Christ.

God is never happy with sin, but the good news is that He never grows tired of pouring out His forgiveness through His Word.

Remember that God works through His Word.  When Jesus would speak to deaf ears and command them to hear, they would obey.  The effort and resolve of the individual didn’t matter because they couldn’t hear Jesus anyway.  Luther said it well, “God’s works are His words; He speaks and it is done: because the speaking and the doing of God are the same.”

When you hear God in our Old Testament text (Dt. 4:1-2; 6-9) saying, “Keep [my commandments] and do them,” remember: His Word accomplishes what it commands.

Jesus says again today, “Hear Me, and understand.  This is My body broken for you; this is My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

He welcomes you again to His altar today to give you a feast and to give you a fresh start.  Amen.

May the peace of Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you until eternity.  Amen.