Share in Suffering for the Gospel

Share in Suffering for the Gospel

Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you, children, for playing
and singing, and for what you are about to do later on during Communion.
Thank you, our older children, for singing along with them and adding
to it. We thank you very much.

Wow! Now in this text, our
Lord comes right out and pulls no punches and says very clearly, “Temptations
to sin are sure to come, but woe to that one through whom they come!”

Now, many of you UT fans are
saying, Yeah, them Sooners lead me to sin yesterday by saying things
I shouldn’t say at the television screen.
Sorry, Longhorn fans,
that is not the case. That sin, unfortunately, dwells within our own
bosom, which is really what this text is about…the sin that dwells
within our own bosom.

You see, it is very easy for
us to look at someone else’s sin, to look at how they do things and
what they do, to be very quick to correct and show that they need to
take this advice and wisdom, and not take the wisdom and advice ourselves.
That is really what this text is about.

When our Lord says temptations
to sin are sure to come, He is not asking us to look at where temptations
come from out there. He is asking you and me to look here, because they
are sure to come. He is asking us to look here so that we don’t perpetuate
the sin that is sure to come upon us, upon someone else.

How do we know such things?
Because He is very quick to point out the horrific punishment for foisting
our sin upon one of these little ones. Little ones being young
Joshua or other believers in Christ that are small in size, stature,
and chronology, or little ones like the ones with whom we sit
in the pew or in this congregation whose lives are affected by each
of us individually, in how we relate. Not just to them, but to them
as they watch and perceive us relate to them.

“…woe to that one through
whom [these temptations] come!” This proclamation should stop us
cold, as it did the disciples who heard it. For the sake of clarity,
the disciples were told, “Pay attention to yourselves. This is
not about you looking out there to find out what is wrong with them
and how they need to act and be acting so that these little ones aren’t
hurt by them.” That is not what the text is about!

The text is about us looking
in our hearts for how we foist our own peccadillos and our own sins
upon others. But which sin? We have laundry lists within our lives.
Which one is it that our Lord wishes for us to focus upon? He is very,
very precise. In the next breath after He says, “Pay attention
to yourselves!” He says, “If your brother sins,
rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven
times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’
you must forgive him.”

So that sin, of which our Lord
is saying temptations to sin come…watch yourself! That sin, which
our Lord does not want us to foist upon others, is the sin of how we
give forgiveness or the sin of how we receive forgiveness.

As you and I look about how
we give forgiveness, we can find so many examples of being selective
in how we give forgiveness and not all encompassing as our Lord gave
us forgiveness. We can look around us and see how we receive forgiveness
in that do we receive it and acknowledge God’s forgiveness because we
finally feel like we are worthy of it?

Being selective in giving forgiveness
and accounting worth or value to ourself in receiving forgiveness are
both damnable and ought to be repented, for it leads people astray.
It teaches them that forgiveness is something that must be merited and
earned, must be deserving of being received, and must only be given
when such an evocation of emotion is seen. That is false teaching, and
it is damnable, and you and I must repent. That is what our Lord is
teaching us, to pay attention to ourselves and repent.

Consider where we learn forgiveness.
The concept of forgiveness wasn’t as if we can just come upon this great
idea of forgiveness. It is a revelation to us, given to us at our baptism,
as Joshua knows and experiences right now in his life. Where Joshua,
and where you and I, came into conflict with what God reveals, and with
what we see and experience is how your mom and dad gave in forgiveness
and received forgiveness to one another and to you.

That is where you and I learned
that there is a difference, isn’t there? Between what God reveals and
what man practices. It is in our house, and if it’s in our house (yours
and mine), it’s in the church, and it’s damnable and we need to repent.
Our Lord did not put boundaries around His forgiveness that He has offered
to you. Our Lord did not wait for you to feel as if you were worthy
of His forgiveness to receive you back.

You can tell that the disciples
got the point of what our Lord was saying by their response. Their response
to what Jesus had just preached and proclaimed was, “Increase our
faith!” They could see that they did not have that which God was
proclaiming, which it is our Lord’s hope that we too look at ourselves
after hearing this and saying, Lord increase our faith, for I do
not forgive as I have received such forgiveness. I do not receive as
you have so freely and bountifully given. I put limits on your forgiveness.
I limit it in giving it to others and giving it to myself! Lord, help
me to get out of the way.

It is a good thing to repent,
but the disciples, and in this case the apostles, first and foremost,
were looking in the wrong direction. When they cry out, “Increase
our faith!” they have the right concept of repentance. Their problem
is where they are looking. Increase my faith! The longer you and I navel
gaze about the lack thereof, faith and trust, and the great conflict
of in the midst of our faith we have unbelief. The more we are focusing
upon ourself and not on the author and perfecter of our faith, the more
we are looking for God to give us faith, the more we are not
seeing He has given us faith! We are just coming to terms with all of
the hypocrisy and unbelief that we are finding coexisting in the same

Faith is an on-or-off equation.
It either is or isn’t. It is not a little or a lot; it either is or
isn’t. God did not bring Joshua into faith simply to say, Well, I’m
going to start this. Let’s see what happens.

He has faith. Complete faith. Why else would God say, “…unless
you turn and become like little children…” What you and I struggle
with as we grow older is not the fact that we have faith; it’s the fact
that coexisting in this faith, in our person, is a whole other realm
of hypocrisy and problems. We have trouble living with the reconciliation
between the two.

When the apostles cry out,
“Increase our faith!” the apostles are asking for God to do
something to inoculate them and give them what they need. God is reminding
them very clearly, “You have been given what you need, for you
have been given completely and totally Me…you don’t need anything
else. Stop looking inside of the contradiction and look where there
is no more contradiction…Me! Not you, Me! Not them, Me!”

This is critical for the apostles,
for they are the ones whose faith we confess in the words of the Apostle’s
Creed. Not their specific, exact words, but that they, upon whom we
have built our faith in the New Testament, that that proclamation is
sure and certain. What erodes such sure and certain faith is the concept
of how we give and receive forgiveness. What clarifies, purifies, and
sanctifies such a convoluted person as we? The One who gives it freely
and the One who never asks but receives, and receives fully, people
like us.

That is why, in the final parable,
to punctuate all that He has said prior to this final parable, He makes
the parable in a completely different fashion and goes down a different
path that we don’t expect. We remember Jesus said, I “came not
to be served but to serve, and to give [My] life …” So we are thinking,
all right
, but then in the parable He is the one who says “come
and serve Me”.

It’s the servant who says we
have done nothing but our own duty, because the focus isn’t upon what
the servant is doing, but who we serve just as your and my focus cannot
be upon us who do the serving, but upon the One whom we serve, who proclaims
to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Not because
we have been good in any way, but because He has made us good. Not because
we have been faithful in any way, but because His faithfulness is that
which covers over our faithlessness.

Then there is resolution to
this conflict within us, but for a time because the next thing you know
we are challenged. We are contradicted within ourselves and we are crying
out, “Lord, increase our faith”. He is saying “repent
and look to Me. I am the one who declares you holy and righteous. I
am the one that declares you My child, not because you deserve it or
because you can find something within you worth of it, but because my
Son alone is worthy and He has died for people such as you.”

Rejoice! Rejoice in such proclamation
for you. You know the LWML’s great hallmark statement, “Serve
the Lord with gladness.” The reason that a person is glad is not
because of an emotive feeling, but because of what God has proclaimed
about us. For we know far better than we need to know, and wish not
to know such depth, but we know such depth of depravity, as we know
such depth of grace that covers such depravity. We serve and love much
because we have been forgiven much. In the name of Him, who is our Lord
and Master, Jesus, Amen

The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to
life everlasting, Amen.