Worship at Good Shepherd on Feb. 19

The worship video from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rogers is below. The sermon text is Matthew 5:43-48. The theme is on loving your neighbor.

The bulletin is available at: 2017.02.19-bulletin

God demands perfect love

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

As human beings, we would seek to water down God’s commandments to make them fit our own way of thinking, but Jesus holds up to us a higher model: God the Father in heaven.

As the saying cited by Jesus goes, we too have heard it said that we should love our neighbor, but that it is OK to hate our enemies. But is that what God’s law says? Consider the example of our Father in heaven. What does He do? As Jesus said, “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Even though God would be perfectly just in judging and condemning all who reject Him and rebel against Him, what does He do? He causes His sun to rise even on the evil. He sends rains to water the crops of both the believer and the unbeliever. In fact, instead of dealing with all of us as we deserve for our rebelliousness and disobedience, He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for the sins of all people (cf. 1 John 2:1-2). And, the LORD God is patient with us, not wanting any of us to be lost but desiring that all of us repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). He puts up with our disrespect and disregard and patiently calls us back to Him through His Word.

If we desire to be like our heavenly Father, our love cannot only be for a select few we like; it should be for all for whom Christ died – yes, even our enemies, those who curse us, hate us, spitefully use us and persecute us. If we love only those who love us, we are no different than anybody else. God’s Word, His commandments, demand more; they demand perfection – that we be perfect just like our Father in heaven is perfect.

Quite obviously, we all fall short of such perfect obedience. How thankful we can be that God’s love is perfect and pure!

As the Bible says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Because God loved us and sent His Son to die for our sins – for the sins of all people – and rise again, we who come so far short can have forgiveness and a place in God’s everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Bible also says: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11).

Dear Father in heaven, we have failed to love as You have loved. Yet, You have loved us and have given Your only-begotten Son to suffer and die for our sins and the sins of all. Forgive us and cleanse our hearts that we might love as You have loved. We come before You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Scripture Taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

What does God’s law demand of us?

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20

Like the scribes and Pharisees, many assume they have kept God’s commandments. They haven’t killed anyone. They haven’t committed adultery. They have kept their pledges and oaths to the Lord.

But what does Jesus say? “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

“It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).

“Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Jesus teaches that outward obedience to the strict letter of the law is not all that God requires. He commands and requires pure hearts and minds and perfect love for God and our neighbor.

Do we measure up to what the law demands? Are we righteous before God by our keeping of His commandments? Consider Jesus’ words. The outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees wasn’t enough, nor is our righteousness.

That’s why we need Jesus. He fulfilled the demands of God’s law for us, not only outwardly, but in His thoughts, desires, words and deeds. And he took our sin and guilt upon Himself and suffered our punishment when He died on the cross.

“Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). We are counted righteous through faith in His name and that perfect righteousness of Christ avails before God (cf. Romans 3:19ff; 5:1-2) and far exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees!

O dearest Jesus, forgive me for breaking Your commandments in my thoughts, desires, words and actions. Wash away my sins in Your shed blood, and cleanse my heart that I might love You and love my brother. Amen.

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

 

‘Ye are the light of the world….’

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus tells us, as His disciples, that we are the light of the world. Note that He does not say we should be or could be – we are! As disciples of Jesus, we are lights in this world because we know Jesus and are being changed into His glorious image (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29). In fact, we are the only reflection of Jesus that many will ever see – the only light shining in their dark and sinful world!

In the same way as one would not light a lamp and hide it under a bushel basket but put it on a lamp stand to give light to all who are in the house, so also a Christian, who walks in fellowship with God through faith in Jesus’ shed blood upon the cross for our sins, will not want to hide his faith and devotion to Christ Jesus, but let the light of God’s grace and mercy to us in His Son shine that others too might come to that light and see.

Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Rather than hiding our faith in Jesus and His blood shed for our salvation, we are to live for Him who died for us and rose again (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). We are to let the true Light of the world, Jesus the Savior, shine through us in this dark and dying world.

Note, too, that Jesus does not tell us to do good works that men may see and glorify us. Rather we should let our lights shine in such a way that men see the working of God in us and glorify Him! After all, it is only by God’s grace and mercy in Messiah Jesus that any of us can know God the Father or walk in His ways.

Jesus, God’s Son and true man, shed His blood to redeem all of us and pay the just penalty for the sins of the world that we might have pardon and peace with God our Father through faith in His name. And Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon us to enlighten and regenerate us, bringing us to know and trust in Christ Jesus and giving us new life in Him. Indeed, Jesus is Himself that Light that we who trust in Him and follow Him are to reflect openly in this world (cf. John 8:12).

O dearest Jesus, the Light of this dark and dying world, enlighten our hearts with the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Your name and shine upon us and through us, making us lights in this world, that others too may see and come to You for life everlasting! Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

‘You are the salt of the earth….’

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matthew 5:13

How salty are you? No, I am not inquiring concerning your sodium content, but of your Jesus content.

Jesus tells us as believers that we are the salt of the earth. How is this so?

We are the savor of Jesus in this world. In other terms, we are reflections of Jesus in a world that does not know Him. People should be able to see and taste and smell, so to speak, Jesus and His teaching in us!

How can we lose our flavor? By not being faithful followers of Jesus!

If we do not abide in Jesus by trusting in Him for forgiveness and life, and walk close to Him by continuing in His Word, how can we taste like Jesus in this world? If we compromise the truth and conform to the ways of the world, if we don’t live the truth or keep it hidden away in our hearts, we are like salt which has lost its flavor. What good is it? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. How can you be a witness for Christ if you do not taste like Him, smell like Him, sound like Him and live like Him in this world?

Jesus tells us: “Ye are the salt of the earth….” Walk closely with Jesus so that you can be a savor of Him in this world! Let your words and your life be a testimony to Jesus and the salvation He has won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer from sin and death, grant that I walk closely with You and abide in Your Word that I might also be a savor of You in this world. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

‘Why do the heathen rage….?’

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” These are the opening words of Psalm 2 and so well describe the raging of our own day. In fact, if you read on in the psalm, it tells us the real root of the raging we see almost every day on the news and increasingly in our own communities and neighborhoods: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I admit that I sometimes am amazed at how accurately the Bible describes sinful me and the world in which I live. It’s just one more proof of the 100-percent accuracy and truthfulness of the Scriptures, which should come as no surprise to those who accept the Bible’s claim to having the God who created the universe as the real author. But, back to the heathen raging.

“Why do the heathen rage?” Why do people, politicians and the main-stream media rage when someone takes a stand against such things as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, adultery, divorce, etc.? Why do they employ dishonesty, name calling, demonstrations and sometimes even violence in an attempt to sway public opinion to their side? The answer of the psalm: they are trying to break and cast off the bands of the LORD God of the Bible and His Anointed, Jesus Christ, from us and our society and nation. They wish to be free of all influence of God and the Bible and they rage against any who hold to the true Christian Faith or to a true Christian view of the Bible as God’s inspired and unerring word.

And, yes, the word “heathen” includes many who claim to be Christian. It includes all who do not live in continual repentance and faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world. It includes all who reject the Christ of the Bible, who is true God and true man and held to the accuracy and truthfulness of every word of the Bible and called such things as adultery, fornication, evil words, evil desires and coveting, sin and worthy of damnation. It includes all who would soften the words and teaching of Jesus to make them more appealing to our modern world. It includes all who believe or teach that faith in Jesus and His cross is not the only way of salvation.

Why do the heathen seek to cast off the LORD God of the Bible and His Christ? It’s because they don’t wish to be held accountable to a God who condemns sin. They don’t wish to admit that they are living in rebellion and disobedience against the God who created them and gave them life. They don’t wish to hear that they will all stand before the judgment seat of God’s Son. They don’t wish to repent of their sinful ways, place their faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross and then amend their thinking and lifestyle in accord with God’s Word, the Bible.

Jesus explained it when, just after the words of John 3:16, He said: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19-20).

And the raging against God and His Word is more than just a battle of opinions among people. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We need to remember that Satan Himself is behind the raging against the LORD and His Anointed. With his lies and deception, Satan is at work trying to make good look evil and evil look good — that is why the killing of the unborn is described as women’s reproductive rights, euthanasia as showing kindness and mercy to the elderly and terminally ill, homosexuality as an individual being true to his or her nature, etc. It’s all a lie — an appealing lie — of Satan.

This raging against God and His Word is not a new thing even though the battle has become more open and vocal in recent years. The raging was evident in the teaching of evolution in the public schools and the attempts in public education to discredit the Bible. It has been evident in church body after church body with the questioning of the historical accuracy of the Scriptures and with challenges to numerous teachings of the Bible. It was evident in the Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decisions. And, it is evident today in all the wranglings to keep a conservative judge from being seated on the Supreme Court and to prevent the president and congress from enacting moral laws.

Christians will not and cannot win this battle over the raging by simply electing conservative leaders, because the real battle is not for outward dominion but for the hearts and minds of the people. It is not a battle to be fought with guns and bombs, or even by political maneuvering to get more votes and more earthly power. It is a spiritual battle to be fought with spiritual weapons. Christians will not win or gain ground through compromise or acquiescence. It’s not time to surrender the sword of the Spirit or to put our armor down (Ephesians 6:10ff.). Appealing to the raging masses through any compromise of the truth will only give the enemies of truth the entrance and foothold they need to silence the witness to the truth altogether behind good words like “love” and “acceptance.”

Christians must stand firm and teach and proclaim God’s truth — all of it — nothing more and nothing less! And Christians need to be praying that God would use His truth to change hearts and minds from those who rage against the LORD and His Christ to those who submit to the LORD and His Christ and who hear and believe the truth, repenting of their sins and sinful ways and looking to Christ for pardon, forgiveness and for the needed help and strength to amend their lives.

And we do, by the way, know the final outcome. Read on in Psalm 2 for the answer. Those who are raging now would do well to heed the words of the final verses.

[By Randy Moll. Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible.]

 

Can believers fall away and be damned?

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:26-27

Can believers fall away and be damned? Many think the answer is no, but God’s Word indicates it can and does happen. Believers turn back to their former sinful ways and are impenitent – not being truly sorry for their sins and not looking to Christ in faith for forgiveness and the help and strength to amend their lives. It often happens when believers think they can dabble with sin or false doctrine and are overcome.

If you think it can’t happen, read the warning in Hebrews 10:26-31 and in Hebrews 4:1ff.

Peter, in his second epistle, warns against associating with and following the example of those who abuse their Christian liberty and return to their old sinful ways and says: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Paul warned the believers in Corinth: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

It is why Jesus told His followers to admonish (first privately and then publicly) those who sinned that they might repent (Matthew 18:15-18).

It is why Hebrews 12:1-2 says: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And this is why, of course, we are to live in continual repentance. We examine our lives in the light of God’s Word, repent of the evil and false ways in us, trust in Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross for forgiveness and seek His help and strength to amend our ways and live in accord with God’s will.

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:6-9; cf. 1:5 – 2:2; Psalm 32:1-6; Psalm 86:5).

Apart from Jesus and His blood shed for us upon the cross there is no mercy or forgiveness — no other sacrifice for sins. That is why we need to hold fast to Jesus. He is our only hope!

With David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, we pray: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

Blessed are you when….

“And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven….”  Matthew 5:2-3 (Read v. 1-12)

Reading the opening part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount known as the beatitudes, one might draw the conclusion that one must be poor, sad and meek to be saved. In addition, he should be hungry for righteousness, always showing mercy, have a pure and sinless heart, always seek peace and unity in this world, and be persecuted, to be saved. But, sad to say, those who would turn Jesus’ words into a way to be saved by works miss the mark and fail to understand what Jesus was teaching His disciples.

What Jesus describes are the fruits of faith found in those who are penitent – truly sorry for their sins and trusting in the LORD God to show them mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Messiah Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

  • Those who see and know their spiritual poverty and trust in Christ Jesus are made rich in that they have forgiveness of sins and a place in God’s eternal kingdom (cf. Psalms 51:17; 32:1-6; Isa. 57:15; 1 Cor. 1:18ff.).
  • Those who mourn now over their own sinfulness and the sinfulness of this world shall be comforted in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Isa. 61:2-3).
  • Those who are meek now and are abused by those in this world who take advantage of their humbleness and kindness shall inherit the earth (cf. Psalms 37:1ff., esp. v. 11; Isa. 11:4).
  • Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied with Christ’s righteousness now and, when they awake, with Christ’s likeness (cf. Rom. 3:21-ff.; Psalms 17:15; 1 John 3:1-3).
  • Those who show mercy because of God’s mercy toward them in Christ will be dealt with in mercy at the final judgment (cf. Matt. 18:23-35; John 5:24; Psalms 41:10).
  • Those whose hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and who now seek after the things of God will see God face to face in heaven (cf. 1 John 1:3ff.; Rev. 7:13ff.).
  • Those who offer and proclaim the peace of God won for all by Jesus’ blood shed upon the cross shall be called the children of God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18ff.; Eph. 2:13ff.; Rom. 10:15; Isa. 52:7).
  • And, those who are reviled and persecuted for the sake of their faith in Christ Jesus and their commitment to Him and the truths of His Word shall be rewarded in heaven (cf. John 15:18-21; Mark 8:38; Rev. 7:9ff.; 2:10; 2 Tim. 3:12).

O gracious and merciful God, I have sinned and come short of the holiness your law requires. I do not and cannot love you with all my heart and soul or love my neighbor as You desire. Have mercy upon me and cleanse away my sins in the atoning blood of Christ Jesus, my Savior, and grant me a place in your everlasting kingdom for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]