Tag Archives: Satan

Second Sunday in Lent

Unshakable Faith

Peter was crestfallen. He had just proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ. Jesus said that he would build his Church on the testimony Peter. But shortly after this statement Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” What had happened? From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Mark 8:31-33)

Peter could not accept what Jesus was saying. He lacked something. It was early in his discipleship. Later he would grow, but for now he was missing the essential ingredient of discipleship. He lacked unshakeable faith. To understand this type of faith we need to look to Abraham. From Genesis we read:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.   (Genesis 17:1-4)

What is this unshakable that Abraham had? Abraham believed what God said to him, no matter how unlikely it might seem and no matter what obstacles appeared to stand in the way. The Apostle Paul wrote about Abraham’s faith in Romans:

Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”   (Romans 4:18-22)

Abraham had unshakable faith because he believed God no matter what circumstances he found himself in. Even when God, as a test, asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham remembered that God would make him a great nation through his heir. Abraham held on to that promise.

If we believe in Jesus, then we will trust him in all things. Peter already had in his mind what he thought Jesus would do to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. He could not understand why Jesus would do anything else. When Jesus spoke about his suffering and death this did not make any sense to Peter. Peter’s way was better to Peter’s way of thinking.

Have we ever been like Peter in our thinking? Do we always need to figure things out? Perhaps we need to “faith” things out instead. Jesus offers this wonderful illustration in Mark’s Gospel:

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?   (Mark 8:34-38)

Unless we are able to deny ourselves we will never be able to understand what God is doing. We will handicap what God can do for us. God wants to do great and mighty things in our life and within our souls. Will we let him, or will we oppose him because he just is not doing what we want, the way we expect? Who knows better?

Unshakable faith is the path to righteousness. God honors such faith. When we exercise this faith God counts it as righteousness. Our sins have been forgiven through the blood of Jesus and our spiritual growth is assured when we put our whole trust in his blood.

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First Sunday in Lent, Year B

The Covenant of Baptism

As we begin the Season of Lent, we have an account in Mark’s Gospel of the baptism of Jesus:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   (Mark 1:9-11)

Mark’s Gospel is short, direct, and to the point. Fortunately, we have some wonderful commentary on the baptism of Jesus from the other appointed scriptures. Someone has said that the scriptures make very good commentary on the Bible.

Let us examine baptism from both an Old Testament perspective as well as a New Testament one. Reading from Genesis:

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.   (Genesis 9:8-15)

God made a covenant with Noah and his family. What is the context of this covenant? The earth was full of evil people whom God has destroyed by the flood which covered the whole earth. He did so in order for humankind to have a fresh start in serving and worshipping their God. God gives something and God asks something from those who participate with him in the covenant. The covenant is a holy agreement with God and his people which must be honored by all participants.

How does this covenant with Noah and his family compare with the Covenant of Baptism? From 1 Peter we read:

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.   (1 Peter 3:18-22)

Do we notice the similarities? God eradicated the sin in evil people by the flood. Now God has eradicated sin altogether by the blood of Jesus. We can now have a good conscience before God. Thus, we have access to God by our baptismal covenant.

Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. It was more than a baptism of repentance because Jesus did not need to repent. It was a baptism of empowerment by the Holy Spirit. We may wonder why Jesus needed power from on high to begin his ministry. He had given up all his divinity and heavenly power to become one of us in every way.

Jesus set an example in his baptism for us to follow. In Romans, the Apostle Paul further illuminates the Covenant of Baptism:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.    (Romans 6:3-8)

If we have confessed our sin and embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord of All, then our baptism is meaningful to us and to God. We have entered into a covenant with God. We have died to sin so that we might receive a new life, absent from sin. All this is by the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us in baptism.

Have we now arrived? Mark’s Gospel did not elaborate on what baptism means, but it wasted no time in telling us that Jesus was immediately tested after his baptism:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.   (Mark 1:12-13)

After Baptism we have begun a journey. Jesus had a wilderness experience right after his baptism. He was directed into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is ready to direct us as we observe a Holy Lent. Even though we go through difficult times, Jesus is still with us as he has promised to be. Lent is a dress rehearsal for those times. Thanks be to God that during such times we grow closer to God, empowered by his Spirit to serve him in newness of life.

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First Sunday after Christmas: Year B

Sons and Daughters of God

Should God be called our Father? Jesus got into a dialogue with the Pharisees over this question. He was explaining to his disciples that they must continue in the Word of God in order to know the truth and then be set free:

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:31-32)

Jesus was speaking about being set free from the power of sin. The Pharisees objected to what Jesus was saying because, in their minds, they were already set free. After all, they were descendants of Abraham. Jesus challenged their statement by telling them they had another father all together:

Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.   (John 8:39-44)

Sin separates us from God which precludes God from being our spiritual Father. We broke away from God as Father when we chose to serve the god of this world. At the beginning of his Gospel John explains what is required to get back to God being our Father:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-13)

God, through drastic measures, adopted us as his sons and daughters. The Apostle Paul writes about this adoption:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

In order to be adopted by God we must be willing to received the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The adoption process takes us out of the world on sin and places us in a new home created by his Son. This process is carried out over time. Jesus said that we must continue in his word. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to become the children of God. Becoming is a process.

We need to understand how this adoption works. God has chosen us. We must be willing to choose the One who gave himself up for our adoption. We must continually choose Jesus over the god of this world. That is something the Pharisees were unwilling to do. In their minds, they had already arrived. How many Christians believe this same thing today? How many churches teach it.

Are we still a slave to sin? If we are then we must continue to cry out: “Abba! Father!” God will change ours hearts when we cry out to him. Jesus said:

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[f] to those who ask him!”   (Luke 11:9-13)

God gives us power to overcome sin. He gives us power to become the children of God. He gives power to those who continue in his Word. If we call him Father, then we must go to him and not the god of this world. He has adopted us through the blood of his Son. Have we received his adoption?

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

262017884xGMKlo_phThe Spirit of Truth

We live in a pluralist society. It is becoming ever more difficult to talk about our Christian faith. Persecutions of Christians are on the rise, even in America. Moreover, there are alternative messages to the Gospel that spew out on the airways and over the internet. False doctrines have supplanted Biblical truths. Deception, misinformation, disinformation, and down right lies are the order of the day. Some might even say psyops, brainwashing, and group think. Satan has taken over the culture of today.

We are living in a very dark time indeed. Who is telling the truth? What is truth? People are begging for the truth, rather they realize it or not. That is where Christian comes in. Are we prepared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Peter laid down this challenge:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.   (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God has done great things for us. Will we boldly share with others what he has done? The psalmist wrote:

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.   (Psalm 66:14-15)

If we are to give witness to the Christian way of life, then we must be living the Christian way of life. We must be different from the world. This is no time for shallow or nominal Christians. We must be walking with Jesus on a daily basis. We cannot truly witness the Christian faith without his help. The good news is that he has promised to help us. We read in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.   (John 14:15-17)

Jesus has given us supernatural help by way of the Parakletos, which is a Greek word often translated as “helper.” The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide who leads us to the truth. He is the Spirit of Aletheia, in the Greek, which means standing against corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

The Spirit of truth helps us to understand and interpret God’s Word and relate it to our lives. With the Spirit we are not in the dark. Without the Spirit we are part of the darkness.

Jesus promised:

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”   (John 14:18-21)

Have we received the Spirit? He is continually available to us. But we must ask for him. We must ask for his help. And we must also seek to keep the commandments of God. Deliberate sin is not compatible with the Spirit because this type of living is not truthful. It does not show the world what God has done for us. To speak the truth we need the Spirit of truth and we need to live in truth daily.

We are living in critical times. God is bringing the Church age to the close. Are we ready for that day when God judges the earth? How about our families and loved ones? The Apostle Paul wrote:

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”   (Acts 17:30-31)

Jesus has risen from the dead and sits on the right hand of God the Father. He is calling us to live out our faith that the world may know that we have risen with him. We are not longer subject to this world and its compromised. We must live in the truth by the Spirit of truth to demonstrate to the world what is real and lasting. This present age is passing away. Even unbelievers sense it. Where can they go for answers? We who are living in Christ are the answer for them. Jesus is Lord of this age and in the age to come. Amen.

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