Sermons

September 2, 2018 - Characteristics of Discipleship: Part 1

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Various


  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.  

 

Introduction: The Encarta dictionary defines the word disciple as somebody who believes in and follows the teachings of a leader, a philosophy, or a religion. Today we begin a sermon series on discipleship. These sermons are based on a series of devotions in “My Daily Devotion: God’s Promises for Joyful Living” by Stephen J. Carter. In this series we’ll hear of eight characteristics of a disciple of Christ. Many people in our country today claim to believe in Jesus Christ but in the next few weeks we’ll learn together what it means to be a follower of Christ. What it means to be a disciple.

  • The letter “D” emphasizes that a disciple depends.
    • In the Introit for today we heard the imagery that Jesus used to illustrate our relationship to him. He is the vine and we are the branches.
      • A grape vine is a wonderful picture of our relationship with Christ.
      • The vine is absolutely necessary for the branches to survive. The vine carries the vital, life giving nutrients to the branch which bears clusters of juicy grapes.
      • A strong vine can even receive branches grafted into itself. It will take these struggling branches and make them into vibrant fruit bearing branches.
      • Yet a branch that breaks away from the vine will eventually die.
      • This illustration shows that we are completely dependent on Jesus. Without Jesus we would be like that broken off branch, we would simply die. 
    • In the Holy Week narrative from Luke 22 we see a contrast of dependence.
      • Simon Peter depends on himself and falls short.
      • Peter thinks that he is strong enough to stand by Jesus’ side throughout any trial or tribulation. Even prison.  Even death.
      • After Jesus is seized and led to the house of the high priest Peter follows but only from a distance.
      • Note that in Luke’s Gospel it is a servant girl who is the first to insist that Peter was with Jesus.
      • Peter’s not even strong enough to stand up to a servant, a female servant no less, who had little to no standing in that society.
      • Peter relies on his own power and ends up denying being a disciple of Jesus three times.
      • Jesus on the other hand, fully depends on His Father.
      • As Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.
      • Yet He puts His trust in the Father’s hands, he prays, “Not my will, but yours, be done.”
      • He prayed so earnestly that He began to sweat blood. Scientists insist that this is truly possible in times of great sorrow and anguish and pain.
      • Jesus trusts in the Father, trusts in His will. Jesus was not delivered from that pain and suffering but the will of the Father was that Jesus would suffer, die and be raised from the dead on the third day.
    • A disciple depends.
      • Not on his own strength or ability. Not on his independence. Our human nature leads us to try to do it on our own. And, often like Peter, we are led into the darkness of this world and when things get tough we deny our Lord.
      • A disciple depends on the Lord for all things: physical, spiritual, emotional!
      • Maybe Luther said it best in his explanation of the commandments; We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
  • The letter “I” emphasizes that a disciple imitates.
    • In the reading from Matthew 10 we heard just what it takes to follow or imitate Jesus.
      • A disciple has enemies in this world.
      • The life of a disciple isn’t always peaceful; tribulation often arises and sometimes even from one’s own family.
      • The Gospel of Mark details such an event in Jesus’ life: And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21 ESV) Jesus’ own siblings believed that Jesus was simply crazy. They simply couldn’t accept the idea that their brother could be the Christ.
      • I can still remember when I told my family that I was going to attend the seminary to become a pastor. Some were supportive but others not so much. I remember the words of one of my uncles, “Why would you want to do that?” Sometimes the trials and hardships of being a disciple come from the ones that we love so dearly.
      • A disciple must love Jesus more than his father or mother, son or daughter.
      • This is most challenging especially when one comes from a strong, unified family that is filled with love and compassion and encouragement.
      • Discipleship sometimes creates a conflict of loyalties. Following Jesus should be our highest priority even above the love of family. (Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary) 
      • A disciple must take up his own cross of pain, punishment, ridicule and even death.
      • We know from the Gospel accounts what Jesus endured in His final hours. He faced slander and ridicule. He endured the flogging and crucifixion, two cruel and painful forms of punishment. He died hanging from His cross.
      • If we are to be disciples we must be willing to face the same sorts of things.
      • The ridicule of Christians is becoming more and more common in this country. Christian businesses are being boycotted; owners are being sued and taken to court because of their beliefs.
      • It is likely that you and I will face this ridicule and even financial hardship in our lifetime. It is likely that in the near future I as a pastor may be arrested and imprisoned for hate speech because I simply proclaimed the truth of God’s Word.
  • Before I finish I must point out that there are no perfect disciples of Christ.
    • Throughout this series we will see how some of the twelve failed. How they didn’t live up to the standards of a disciple of Jesus.
      • This morning we heard how Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, failed and denied knowing Jesus three times.
      • Peter depended on his own power and strength. He depended on his independence and failed.
      • Sometimes Peter’s ego and his quickness to speak led to his failing.
      • Remember the Transfiguration: It was Peter who said in essence “Lord it’s great to be here with You and Moses and Elijah, let me build three dwellings so that we can stay here.”
      • Remember that it was Peter who took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “No Lord You will not go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed and be raised on the third day. This shall never happen to You.”
    • Like Peter, we too are not perfect disciples.
      • We have failed to live up to the standards of a disciple of Jesus.
      • We have failed to depend only on Him.
      • We often trust in our own strength and abilities.
      • We often trust in the good gifts that the Lord provides, medicine, science, technology and such and fail to trust in the one who provides these things.
      • We often fail as we try to live while being disconnected from Jesus, from His Words of life and from the gracious gifts He offers in the Divine Service. 
      • We have failed to be imitators of Jesus.
      • In fear of creating enemies, we have failed to confess or share our faith with others, even those in our families.
      • We have failed as we cling to the loyalty of love for family and not love for Jesus.
      • We have failed when we refuse to take up our own cross and follow Jesus. We have failed to endure the ridicule, pain, and suffering because of Jesus, the one who endured so much for us.
    • Yet, the perfect one, the Holy One of Israel, the Christ calls us, we who are imperfect, to be His disciples.
      • He says to us…
      • “In baptism you were marked as mine, you are my redeemed brother or sister. In and through this water I have washed you clean from all of your sins.”
      • “I have placed my servant, your pastor, in your midst. In my place and by my command he says these words of comfort to you; I forgive you all of your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
      • “I have given you the new covenant in my body and blood. Come to the altar, see and taste that the Lord is good. Come to the altar for I give you my body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.”
      • “Depart this day in joy and peace, your sins are forgiven! Go into the world and live as my disciples. Depend solely on the creator of all things. Imitate me in your lives even when it means ridicule and suffering.”
      • “Look forward to the day of my return when I will make all things new. I will make your body to be just like my resurrected body and you will live with me in never ending joy and peace.”
      • Our response to Jesus’ words is simply, “Amen, may it be so Lord! Amen.”

September 9, 2018 - Characteristics of Discipleship: Part 2

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Various

  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.  

     

  

Introduction: Last week we reviewed the definition of a disciple, namely, someone who believes in and follows the teachings of a leader, a philosophy, or a religion. Last week we learned of two characteristics of a disciple of Christ, dependence and imitation. Today we continue the sermon series based on eight devotions in “My Daily Devotion: God’s Promises for Joyful Living” by Stephen J. Carter. Today we’ll learn about two more of the eight characteristics of a disciple of Christ. We’ll once again learn together what it means to be a follower of Christ. What it means to be a disciple.

  • The letter “S” emphasizes that a disciple serves.
    • In the upper room Jesus gives us a great example of service – He washes the disciples’ feet.
      • I think that much of the significance of this action gets lost in our inability to understand the context of the time.
      • The People’s Bible Commentary describes Jesus’ actions: So Jesus, to show his deep love for his disciples, rose from the dinner and served them as a slave would serve his master and his master’s guests. Jesus washed their feet. Usually a slave was appointed to do that when the guests entered the house from the dusty paths. When Jesus rose during the meal to do the servant’s job, he called special attention to his ministry as a servant. (P.186)
      • Other commentaries noted that Jewish slaves would not be asked to wash feet as this was reserved only for Gentiles slaves.
      • Jesus, on the night which He would be betrayed, gave His disciples a stark example of humble service. The washing of their feet showed them that they should serve simply because of love.
    • In the epistle lesson from the Apostle Peter we heard about various gifts of grace. Peter wrote; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:11)
      • God gives each of us special abilities and gives us the strength to use these abilities to serve Him, His Church and our neighbor. 
      • We don’t use these abilities to increase our pride but rather that they give glory to God who is the source of such gifts.
    • Our mission statement doesn’t specifically mention serving.
      • Yet, “sharing the love of Jesus” implies service.
      • I give thanks and praise to the Lord for how far we have come as a congregation in terms of serving our community. This year we have or will serve in the following ways:
      • Providing gift cards to victims of house fires
      • Providing emotional and spiritual care to firefighters, their families and the community
      • Support of Hand ‘N’ Hand pregnancy center
      • Support of blood drives
      • Support for our scouting program
      • Supporting Disaster Response Teams
      • Giving away over 1500 pair of socks at Grace Day
      • We have come so far in just a few years and yet there are many more opportunities to serve in the future. May we meet these challenges to serve and serve with gladness.
  • The letter “C” emphasizes that a disciple commits. (Much of the information in this section is from Concordia Commentary: Matthew by Dr. Jeff Gibbs)
    • Our Gospel lesson from Matthew 8 teaches us two lessons about committed discipleship.
      • First a scribe, one trained to copy and study the text of the Old Testament Scriptures, approaches Jesus saying, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19, ESV) 
      • This scribe didn’t understand that committing to discipleship meant giving up all guarantees of comfort and shelter.
      • Second, a man designated as a disciple makes what we would understand to be a reasonable plea, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Matthew 8:21, ESV) 
      • Unfortunately Matthew does not give us the context surrounding this plea. Has the father died? Is the father on his death bed? Is the son asking to fulfill his obligation to care for his father, which held prime value in Jesus’ time?
      • Whatever the specifics of the situation, the question comes down to which relationship is primary?
      • Here Jesus sternly commands this disciple to make his allegiance to Him of first priority.
      • Commitment to being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t lend itself to a soft and easy life.
      • Jesus suggests that it means giving up some of our comforts, giving up some of the things that we treasure in this life.
      • Jesus suggests that it means making our allegiance to Him our first priority.
  • Again we need to be reminded that there are no perfect disciples of Christ.
    • Throughout this sermon series we’ll see how some of the twelve failed. How they didn’t live up to the standards of a disciple of Jesus.
    • This week we look at the failure of two of Jesus’ closest disciples; James and John.
      • As they were going up to Jerusalem, these two asked Jesus; “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:37, ESV)
      • James and John weren’t thinking about serving but rather they desired those two important places of power and prestige. 
      • A brief summary of this account could be: The great on earth exercise authority; the great in God’s kingdom are servants to one another. (People’s Bible Commentary: Mark p.148)
      • Often you and I like to exercise authority here in the church. This desire for power sometimes creates conflict. At these times it would be beneficial for us to remember that we are called to be servants of one another. 
    • Even though we often fail as disciples, our Lord Jesus, the one who came to serve and give His life as a ransom for us, He calls us. He calls the imperfect, to be His disciples.
      • He says to us…
      • “In baptism I covered you with my robe of righteousness which makes you pure and holy. I am committed to you, to be your Savior. In the rite of Confirmation you confessed the gifts that are yours through baptism and verbally committed yourself to me. 
      • “I have placed my servant, your pastor, in your midst. In the Divine Service he forgives your sins in my place and by my command. Hear them as if I were whispering those words of comfort in your ears.”
      • “My commitment is visible to you in my Supper. It is my new covenant established to forgive your sins. Come to the altar this morning, receive my body and blood and depart with great joy and comfort.”
      • “As you leave my house today remember that your sins are forgiven and to share that forgiveness with those you meet this week. Go into the world and live as my disciples. Follow my example and serve your neighbor and serve your God. Commit your life to Me, I know that this can be challenging but remember that I will always be by your side.”
      • “Don’t be enamored by the things of this world for when I return the things of the new world will be far more wonderful than you could ever imagine. Stay committed to me and I will give you the crown of everlasting life, a life of never ending delight and wonder and peace.”
      • Our response to Jesus’ words is simply, “Amen, may it be so Lord! Amen.”

September 16, 2018 - Characteristics of Discipleship: Part 3

Author: Pastor Schultz
Text: Various


    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds with the gifts offered here today, Amen.      

    

  

Introduction: A disciple is someone who believes in and follows the teachings of a leader, a philosophy, or a religion. In the last two weeks we learned about characteristics of a disciple of Christ: dependence, imitation, service, and commitment. In today’s sermon based on eight devotions in “My Daily Devotion: God’s Promises for Joyful Living” by Stephen J. Carter we’ll learn about two more of the eight characteristics of a disciple of Christ. We’ll once again learn together what it means to be a follower of Christ. What it means to be His disciple.

  • The letter “I” emphasizes that a disciple instructs.
    • In the Epistle lesson Paul instructs the young pastor Timothy to entrust the Gospel to faithful men who will be able to teach others.
      • Paul is referencing the calling of pastors into the Church. 
      • One of the roles that a pastor performs is that of teacher.
      • This role is often passed on to others in the church such as Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders.
      • The role of the pastor remains in that he is responsible for these teachers; he is to ensure that those who teach, both men and women, are faithful to God’s Word and that they are competent teachers. 
      • Disciples are sometimes called to instruct others in the Church.
    • From Timothy we learn the importance of teaching our children as he was instructed by his mother and grandmother.
      • Paul, early in his second letter to Timothy, recalls the faith of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
      • In our Epistle Lesson Paul writes concerning what Timothy learned about Scripture from these two faithful women.
      • These women serve as great examples of disciples of Christ.
      • They took on the role of instructor in their homes.
      • Maybe you’ve heard these words from a young parent’s mouth, “We’re not going to teach our child anything about faith or religion so that when they are old enough they can decide what they want to believe or not believe.”
      • Words like that, especially when they come from a Christian parent, drive me crazy!
      • Listen to some of what the Bible says about parents teaching their children:
      • Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (ESV) - 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
      • Psalm 34:11 (ESV) - Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
      • Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) - Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
    • Disciples are called to instruct, both in the church and in their homes. Disciples have great influence on those they teach but parents and grandparents have the most influence on their children and grandchildren so let’s not neglect this most important role!
  • The letter “P” emphasizes that a disciple prays.
    • The Gospels give us a glimpse of Jesus’ prayer life.
      • He prayed on mountains and in desolate places.
      • He prayed early in the morning and late at night.
      • He prayed for His disciples and for you and me in the upper room before He was betrayed.
      • His prayer life sets the example for our prayer life.
    • Jesus’ in his “Sermon on the Mount” teaches us about prayer. 
      • He says to us; “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5, ESV) 
      • The point that Jesus is making is that prayer isn’t done for show; it isn’t done so that others can see your “great faith.”
      • Prayer is a sincere act; it is a private conversation with God.
      • Jesus also says to us; “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7, ESV) 
      • Jesus is teaching us that prayer should never be thoughtless or a mechanical repetition. 
      • Sometimes our prayers become thoughtless. When we rush through the common table prayer, speaking from our lips and not with our hearts. Even in worship when we speak the Lord’s prayer without discerning the meaning of the words.
    • A disciple prays throughout the day and in differing places. Our prayers are a sincere, conversation with God in which we speak from our hearts. Even common prayers that we repeat daily aren’t simply a mechanical repetition but rather done with much thought and meditation.
  • Again we need to be reminded that there are no perfect disciples of Christ.
    • In the last two weeks we’ve heard how some of the twelve failed. How they didn’t live up to the standards of a disciple of Jesus.
    • This week we look at the failure of the disciples to pray.
    • Mark recalls the scene: Jesus and the disciples went to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John and began to be greatly distressed. He said to the three of them, “Remain here and be alert.” Jesus went a little further, fell on the ground and prayed. He came back to the three and finding them asleep Jesus said to Peter, “Could you not be alert for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Jesus went away again to pray and returning to the three found them asleep again. (Mark 14:32-42, ESV)
    • It was late, the disciples were tired, even Peter, James and John weren’t able to stay awake to pray with and for Jesus. 
    • Jesus’ words from that night are all so true; The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38, ESV)
    • What was true for the twelve is also true for us. Spiritually we know that we should have an active prayer life but our flesh is weak. At times we’re too tired. At times our minds wander and we fail to finish our prayers. Sometimes our thoughts are elsewhere and prayer is neglected. 
  • Even though we often fail as disciples, our Lord Jesus, the one who came to teach and gave us an example of how to pray, calls us. He calls the imperfect, to be His disciples.
    • He says to us…
      • “At your baptism your pastor and the congregation gathered on that day prayed with and for you. On that day you received the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.” 
      • “I have placed my servant, your pastor, in your midst to guide and instruct you. Hear his words as if they were my own, I forgive you all of your sins”
      • “On the night that I was betrayed I prayed for you. On that night I established a new covenant for the forgiveness of all your sins. So I invite you to come, eat and drink, be nourished and strengthened in my Supper.”
      • “Depart this day in joy and peace, your sins are forgiven! Go into the world and live as my disciples. Instruct your children about me, about the life that is theirs in my name. Pray each day for it is a joy to bring your prayers to my Father who desires to hear from His children.”
      • “On the appointed day I will return to bring about the new heavens and earth. Yearn for this day for it is then that your body and soul will join in perfect union without blemish or sin. On this day I will take you into my eternal kingdom of never ending delight and wonder and peace.”
    • Our response to Jesus’ words is simply, “Amen, may it be so Lord! Amen.”