Thursday, September 24, 2015

Are you being led to believe that God loves you so much that you don't have to turn away from your sin?


DO you remember when people filled Cleveland Stadium - the one that closed in 1993 - to hear someone preach about Jesus? It happened when Billy Graham was here well over two decades ago now. That stadium seated more than 80,000 people. Such support for God's Word is hard to comprehend. How the prophet Jeremiah wished he had had an audience like that, but in his day nobody wanted to hear the Law or the Gospel. No one wanted to turn from his evil. I'm not saying that Billy Graham taught what we teach. He never did. He taught Evangelicalism, a message fraught with deficiencies. Nevertheless, God can use that message to bring some people to Jesus, which is not so easy when the surrounding culture has become a culture of unbridled hedonism. No such crowds came to hear Jeremiah. His was a lonely voice of truth against a whole society of lies and delusions. The royal prophets, hired by the king, shared the paganism, the wickedness, and the immorality of the people of Judah. They told their society that all would be well.

Just because we don't have kings doesn't mean we won't have pandering prophets. Today they are supported by the general public. Now before we go any further, let me say that today's sermon is not directed against Evangelicals. For the most part they name Jesus as the Messiah, and agree that He has come in the flesh. They are Trinitarian, and confess the Incarnation of the Son of God. We can only be glad about that. While they reject the Biblical teaching of Baptismal regeneration, and deny the need for absolution, for the most part they do condemn sin and proclaim God's mercy and grace. There are far worse false prophets about. We see them in the newspapers, on television, in our entertainment, and especially in the world of advertising for commercial purposes. They tell people that all will be well, without any need for repentance. They constantly call for peace when there is no peace. They want to build self-esteem in people, to re-image God so that He is no longer a Jealous God, to let the lost wander around in their inescapable darkness, to affirm everyone in his rebellion and sinfulness, to tolerate - you name it. What abomination do these people not call us to tolerate? They even ask us to tolerate sodomy. They chatter away their vain delusions, their faith anchored in the quicksand of humanity. Some say God is too good and kind to punish anyone forever. Do they not understand the wrath of love that is spurned? Anyone who does not call people to repentance glorifies sin. They condemn the holy Church because it is not jumping on their secular bandwagon supporting the cause of the day.

A true prophet condemns sin. He does not lead people to some misguided hope for a demythologized secular heaven where everybody is educated, has indoor plumbing, and doesn't need to fight for anything. Such a world is a vicious caricature of the kingdom of God. A true prophet has nothing but doom to offer those who refuse to repent.

Many years ago the Holy Spirit showed the prophets of Israel how the godless world powers of their day would meet their appointed doom. Consider Nahum, one of the Minor Prophets. His book is all of 47 verses, yet in 1923 archaeologists startled the world when their discoveries affirmed the accuracy of Nahum's predictions of Nineveh. His predictions were affirmed in 19 particular incidents of the siege. He had said that part of the city would be destroyed by water and part by fire. That was true. He predicted it would never be rebuilt. It has not been, yet all this accuracy only preached God's Law. Remember that beginning with Moses, all the prophets predict in great detail the story of Jesus. He would be of the Seed of Abraham, He would redeem us by His blood, He would begin His ministry in northern Israel, among the people who walked in darkness. The 16th Psalm predicted that He would not be dead long enough to decay.

Jesus of Nazareth, who fulfilled all this, was a Prophet in His own right. Did He ever tell anybody that all would be well? Yes, He pronounced beatitudes, but never did He say blessed are those who feel good, or blessed are the liars. Jesus called everyone to repentance. He called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He promised to feed us His very flesh, which He ultimately laid on the altar of the cross. He told His disciples He would be crucified and rise again. If ever there was a prophecy that was hard to fulfill it was that one, yet Jesus did it. The Gospel of Jesus that offers you the forgiveness He purchased can indeed turn you from your wickedness and bring you to faith in Him. Jeremiah was a type of Jesus in his rejection. Jesus was rejected and despised by those He came to save. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern, Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb. Jeremiah was delivered from the cistern, and Jesus rose from His tomb. Jeremiah was a true prophet because he pointed to Jesus. All the other prophets of Judah served Zedekiah, the evil king. So today, the church of Jesus Christ points to Him. All the other prophets point to the world and humanity, which are altogether vanity.

The Word of God brings the atonement Jesus earned to you, to me, to all who listen to it, and the Sacraments are part of that Word, the visible part, for Baptism gives sinners the Holy Spirit, while Holy Communion helps those who are already Christians to grow in holiness. The sheep and lambs of Christ have so much to feed on, such wholesome pasture in His promises and in the actions He ordained to accompany them. Let the false prophets remake God into man's pitiful image. Genuine prophecy points to Jesus, not to Jesus the Teacher, but to Jesus the Sacrifice, crucified and risen to redeem us from sin and death. The heaven He promises us will never end. Because of the cross your sins are forgiven. Under that cross death and the devil lie conquered. With the sign of the cross imprinted on your heart you have peace with God, and assurance that yours is the kingdom of God. True prophecy today is the Christian preaching that calls you to repentance and leads you to the cross. True prophecy is parents who read the Bible to their children, bring them to Holy Baptism, sit with them in God's house, and set an example of holy living. True prophecy is a church that brings the comfort of redemption to all the troubles of life, that sets the love of God before everybody. The true prophet does not ask you to sacrifice your personality like a cult leader would. He seeks to make the most of your personality by bringing you to your King. AMEN.

Rev Lloyd E. Gross

No comments:

Post a Comment